Rotary speaker

Ashland commissioner Amanda Clark at Rotary.

ASHLAND The vision, commitment and careful planning that revitalized a South Carolina city can do the same for Ashland, one of Ashland’s commissioners said Monday.

The civic turnaround of Greenville, South Carolina, over the past 40 years presents a model Ashland can use in its own efforts, said Amanda Clark, who visited the town in May with Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs and a group of city and civic leaders.

The group presented its findings to the city commission and Clark made a similar presentation to the Ashland Rotary Club Monday.

Greenville (population approximately 70,000) is substantially larger than Ashland but otherwise similar, having lost its major industry, Clark said.

“We’re not going to be what Ashland was, ever ... but we have a new Ashland. A new Ashland is on its way,” Clark said.

Its transformed downtown has drawn the attention of other cities hoping to replicate its success, with some 50 cities a year sending delegations to study the phenomenon, she said.

Civic leaders there started their revitalization with a downtown development plan focusing on the business district — which is what previous efforts in Ashland have done.

Key components of the plan were to create a downtown pedestrian-friendly, attractive to locals, not tourists, and to bring citizens and civic leaders into the process rather than leaving it to government. “Government does not drive this plan,” she said.

It called for narrowing the main street from four lanes to two, widening sidewalks to encourage walking and outdoor dining, and addition of bike lanes.

Greenville also created anchors including a hotel and arts center, both built on city land. It formed public-private partnerships and tax increment financing districts, and earmarked a substantial percentage of TIF money to the partnerships.

Development priority is for mixed use — retail, commercial, residential — including the riverfront.

Also important is “creating a sense of place” with public art installations, street fairs and festivals.

“We’re not looking to become Greenville,” said Gibbs. “We’re just looking to become the best version of Ashland we can be.”

Ashland already has some components in place, including the new Marriott Delta Hotel, festivals like Poage Landing Days, and other downtown events staged to bring people downtown and keep them there.

The commission is working on revision of its comprehensive plan, and Clark hopes to incorporate some of the Greenville components, she said. Some components were on previous comprehensive plans but were never carried out, she said.

The Alliance plans to send at least one more delegation to Greenville to study its revitalization work, Gibbs said.

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