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Main Street program showcases downtown Camden

Posted: September 21, 2017 2:51 p.m.
Updated: September 22, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Our hottest months are behind us as we begin to enjoy many upcoming events and activities. Our hours of day and night are roughly equal as the Autumnal equinox arrived today. The start of fall is upon us as our beautiful city plants and trees are slowing down.

In reading much of the rich history of Camden, I realize the arrival of fall brings a rejuvenation of activity in our city. There are more events, more gatherings, more people outside. And, it is so refreshing to see the children on the sidewalks -- where horses are not allowed. 

Over the last couple of months, in this column, we have explored the public services. Now, I want to share with you the progress of the city’s Main Street program and some of our work in the area of economic development.

As you will remember, this year Camden became a Main Street America affiliate and the downtown Camden program kicked off with the hiring of Katharine Spadacenta, the program manager. Katherine is strengthening communications among the downtown business owners and alerting them to upcoming events and activities. She is actively engaged with local media outlets to help bring more attention to our local businesses.

The downtown Camden program helped welcome the new residents of the Cedarbrook Apartments in August, promoting the businesses that are only a short walk away. It is critical that our current and new residents know what’s available to them. Katherine is spearheading ways for local business owners to provide a level of knowledge and service that isn’t found just anywhere. It is found in Camden. 

The downtown Camden program has also partnered with businesses and other groups who have established events each year in our downtown. For anyone who attended the 24-Hours of Lemons Downtown Block Party, I hope you saw the new Kids Zone this year, made possible by the downtown Camden program. I also hope you saw the Astroturf car. I am excited to see what new events and activities are on the horizon for our downtown!

Another exciting addition will be the beautification of the 1026-A Broad Street “throughway” connecting to the Town Green. This project is possible through the efforts of our downtown Camden program manager. Katherine pursued and was awarded a grant from AARP’s Livable Communities program -- one of only two grants awarded in South Carolina. This project will turn an empty alley, used to get from point A to point B, into a space for residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy while shopping and dining downtown. 

Keep your eyes on this area.

The downtown Camden program is also working alongside the city’s planning department to provide knowledge to current property owners and potential investors about all of the economic development incentives available, as well as which historic properties downtown qualify.

Incentives such as the city’s own Bailey Bill and other economic development incentives, state and federal historic tax credits, the Abandoned Buildings Revitalization tax credit and other such programs which have the potential of making restoration and revitalization of our historic downtown buildings less costly than many are aware. This work is allowing potential new business owners to see the value of opening in Camden.

I want you to understand that not all the work done by the downtown Camden program is seen on a daily basis, through events and media attention. Building relationships takes time; working with business owners to make ideas and inspirations come to fruition can take months and sometimes years. I am encouraged by the steps the downtown Camden program has taken to identify spaces and projects that can create a lasting impact on the success of our entire city. It is much more than putting businesses in empty stores. It is about creating a community of which all can be proud and of which others will want to visit.

On the leading edge of our economic development news, the city has engaged the services of The Retail Coach (TRC), the nation’s leading retail recruitment and development firm, to expand retail development and increase the city’s tax base. This is a top priority of this administration. Camden has key properties that are poised for both development and redevelopment. The forward workings of this initiative will assist in attracting new retailers and developers who will enhance our community.

Under the direction of Economic Development Director Suzi Sale, this initiative is by far one of the most progressive new business development initiatives undertaken by the city in recent history. TRC has already hit the ground running. Their fresh trade area analysis reveals that our market area population is in excess of 81,000. We need to fulfill our potential by meeting the needs of this population.

With this and other market data, work has begun with meeting one-on-one with leading retail and commercial property owners to learn how we can help maximize exposure and marketability of properties in the larger national retail real estate arena. In October, Suzi, along with TRC, will represent the city and its property owners at the largest retail real estate conference in the Southeast.

As we enjoy the upcoming fall months -- the myriad of opportunities to be outside, to be downtown, to enjoy all of Camden -- I am reminded of what some of the old-timers say: “If our autumn leaves fall slowly, we must prepare for a cold winter.” 

Your city council is encouraged about bringing additional life to all of Camden. Please remember that we are here for you and would love to hear from you. You can find me at city hall almost every business day. Everyone is invited to attend any and all city council meetings, held every second and fourth Tuesday at city hall. We are strong believers in the future of our hometown. We appreciate the efforts and work of Katherine, Suzi and all who are invested in the Downtown Camden program and our economic development. We are celebrating the way ahead in the final months of 2017.

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