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City breaks ground for Town Green

Posted: October 1, 2010 11:05 a.m.
Updated: October 1, 2010 10:50 a.m.
Martha Bruce/C-I

Camden City Manager Kevin Bronson (second from right) joins members of Camden City Council Wednesday in ceremoniously breaking ground on the city’s Town Green Project. Council members at the ceremony were (from left) Alfred Mae Drakeford, Ned Towell, Pat Partin, Mayor Jeffrey Graham and Walter Long.

They tore up a parking lot to put in a paradise. Or at least they will.

Despite low, gray clouds and a threat of rain, 50 to 60 people crowded into the east end of the East Back Lot Wednesday afternoon to witness the first step in its transformation into the city of Camden’s Town Green. Attendees were handed postcard-like programs with a Chinese proverb written on the back: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

“This is a pretty exciting project,” City Manager Kevin Bronson said as he welcomed the audience, which included downtown business owners, city and county officials and others.

The Rev. Ellis White Jr. of Camden First United Methodist Church expressed the hope that the Town Green would have a “generational impact” on the city in his benediction.

Mayor Jeffrey Graham said the project has been on citizens’ minds for many years, starting with public input into a vision plan for Camden that included the Town Green. He also lauded the fact that the project is being started and will be completed with money the city has, as opposed to having to borrow the funds.

Graham also asked those in attendance to envision the transformation.

“You can’t see it today,” he said, turning toward the parking lot’s west end, “but take a look at what we have today and think about it becoming a new green space.”

While Hampton Park is nearby, the mayor said downtown Camden has never had something quite like the proposed Town Green.

“This will be an attraction for Camden. This project is the beginning, the start, to revitalize downtown. I know we have empty store fronts, but this shows council’s commitment to downtown. This parking lot has a lot of problems, but we’re going to improve this space with more parking spaces … into something we can all be proud of right now.”

Graham said the Town Green would be something that would not only be useful, but enjoyable.

“I hope you will be as proud of it when it’s done as we are at this ground breaking,” he said.

The mayor reiterated that the Town Green is just one of several projects and that, as money becomes available -- from both the public and private sectors -- more projects would be completed.

“It’s hard to see this vision now,” Graham said of the parking lot, “but imagine it six months from now.”

Wednesday’s ground breaking was ceremonial; Graham said construction of the Town Green will begin the Monday after the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival on Oct. 11.

“Also, the alley way to Broad Street will be revitalized. It’s not that it’s not safe, just that there’s really nothing to it,” said Graham.

With that, Bronson and Graham joined city council members Alfred Mae Drakeford, Walter Long, Pat Partin and Ned Towell in wielding “golden” shovels to ceremoniously break ground at the site.

“This is a great day for the city of Camden, a tremendous step forward,” said Long. “It’s supposed to be done by the end of February or the beginning of March. That’s amazing to think about.”

Long also pointed out that the Town Green will be multifunctional in nature, serving as an improved parking lot, park and entertainment venue.

Temporary parking during the Town Green’s construction will be set up in a lot across Market Street near the corner of Rutledge Street.

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