This may be the most critical statistic regarding Cherry Road: It carries up to 30,000 vehicles a day.
Despite the anguish over the supposed decline of Cherry Road, the concern that it now is home to a host of title loan stores, pawn shops and low-end shops, the everlasting regret that it is not the most scenic thoroughfare in Rock Hill, people continue to drive on it from one end of town to the other. And customers still frequent businesses up and down Cherry Road, including restaurants, grocery stores, car repair shops, quick stops, liquor stores and beauty parlors.
The city of Rock Hill, however, wants to ensure that Cherry Road continues to be a vital retail sector. With that in mind, city leaders are considering ways to help improve at least one aspect of the road: its appearance.
Some City Council members appear willing to support an incentive program that would make business owners along Cherry Road partners in improving their property and upgrading the look of the surrounding land. One idea is to match Cherry Road property owners’ investments in property upgrades by up to $2,000 in city money.
City officials also have proposed branding and then marketing specific sections of Cherry Road. But the crucial element in the plan is to enlist business owners in the process.
That strikes us as a smart approach. Business owners and their employees no doubt have as clear a picture as anyone about the advantages and shortcomings of Cherry Road they encounter from day to day.
They also are likely to have good ideas about how to go about improving the business climate along the five-mile stretch of Cherry Road that makes up the primary business hub. Why not survey businesses and determine their biggest issues for economic development on Cherry Road?
One challenge will be to ensure that participation in improvement projects is widespread. As some business owners have noted, even if they are willing to invest in improvements, the commercial impact could be small if their neighbors don’t follow suit.
Some also worry that the customer base of neighborhoods within five miles of Cherry Road lacks spending power. Why improve Cherry Road if residents can’t support the stores?
But Cherry Road never has been completely reliant on nearby residential areas. It attracts customers from a much wider area, which is why it remains popular with developers.
And as for vacant or rundown properties, owners may be waiting for the ideal moment to sell. Perhaps the market doesn’t currently support the asking price for those buildings – or never will.
Once the commercial market stabilizes and the economy continues to improve – or owners lower their prices – many of those properties could be sold and turned into viable businesses.
But the idea of offering incentives to owners to improve their own property is a sensible idea. It also is one that gives owners more autonomy in making those improvements.
Cherry Road might not be the most enticing gateway to Rock Hill. But it continues to attract entrepreneurs and customers, and remains one of the city’s primary economic hubs.
Efforts to improve its appearance and give businesses a boost in the process probably would be money well spent.