Almost every town in America has one, a well-worn, cluttered retail/commercial corridor.
Drive up and down the street and there’s a mix of businesses. Groceries and gas stations fill immediate consumer needs. Others stores are signs of the economy, offering quick loans backed by some form of collateral. Some stores need rolls of barbed wire to protect their assets.
For-sale signs are sprinkled along the street. There are more weeds than cars in some parking lots.
At worst, there are shuttered buildings that offer little hope of occupancy. Their owners are allowing them to be demolished by neglect.
Our every-town road is Cherry Road.
Cherry Road bisects Rock Hill. Even with stop lights every few blocks it is a major commuter road, linking Rock Hill to Interstate 77 and beyond. It is the major access to Cherry Park and Winthrop University. Piedmont Medical Center or downtown are just a right or left turn.
At one time Cherry Road was the center of Rock Hill’s commerce. Businesses moved from downtown to Cherry Road. New businesses followed in the mall’s footsteps, coming to town and opening on Cherry Road. Now some of those locations, particularly restaurant sites, are vacant as the market has relocated.
The Rock Hill mall was on Cherry Road. When the mall aged out, some wanted to move its location to the Cherry Road/I-77 intersection. Instead a new mall was built at its present location off Dave Lyle Boulevard. When the mall was built Dave Lyle Boulevard didn’t extend past the interstate.
As new construction booms on Dave Lyle Boulevard and at the Galleria, it’s barely a ripple on Cherry Road, with a new doctor’s office, a new car wash and several fast-food restaurants. Instead of grand-opening signs there are for-sale signs. Even a church is for sale.
Ironically, there may be too much retail and commercial space on the road, say city officials. The saturation, and age of the existing buildings, means these Cherry Road “retail spaces may not be viable again,” says Bill Meyer, the city’s planner.
“Cherry Road has to be redefined,” he said.
So what do we want Cherry Road to be?
The city has beautified sections of the road, but the trees and sidewalks are only a bandage on bigger problems.
Other communities have tried to put their “every road” on a diet, reducing the number of traffic lanes, and redefining land uses. Most of these efforts – if they’ve gotten past the planning stage – have been as successful as putting a roof over downtown.
So how can we redefine Cherry Road?
City planning staff will soon start that process. The intent is to divide Cherry Road into study segments and solicit input.
Key partners in that process will be Winthrop University, business owners, property owners and, most importantly, the residents who live just behind the commercial strip that lines Cherry Road.
One idea is to create commercial-retail “nodes” at key intersections that would provide goods and services for adjacent neighborhoods. The proximity of the nodes to neighborhoods would allow people to walk, rather than drive their car to shop or dine.
Another idea is make Cherry Road a bus-transit corridor. Again, the proximity of neighborhoods to a major commuter route makes a strong point for bus service.
A challenge is the age of the buildings and the fact that there are few large-scale parcels for redevelopment. The cost to buy parcels, demolish buildings and then combine parcels for redevelopment is likely to be significant. Should government have a role in this process, or should it be left entirely to developers?
How do you link redevelopment of the west side of Cherry Road to what’s happening on the east side where there is a new bridge over the Catawba River, the Riverwalk development that is slated to have residences, retail shops and commercial space and the city’s latest park, the velodrome and nearby cycling and walking trails?
And these are just a few of the questions that need to asked – and answered.
Don Worthington 803 329-4066 email@example.com