Fort Mill Times

Functional art part of Main Street's facelift

Town workers paint an oversized checkerboard installed at a vacant lot on Main Street.
Town workers paint an oversized checkerboard installed at a vacant lot on Main Street.

Lower Main Street received a mini-facelift recently, with the installation of large stone benches and an oversized checkerboard placed at the site of the former Tony's Pizza.

Fort Mill Town Manager David Hudspeth said he was concerned about the lot appearing vacant and not maintained while the property owner, Fort Mill attorney Bayles Mack, made plans to build on the lot.

Mack said he has plans for a three-story building on the site, but because of the downturn in the economy, the time isn't right to seek financing for construction on the property. With that in mind, he said, he agreed to lease the property on a month-to-month basis to the town - for no cost.

"Hopefully [Mack] can sell it, or build a building, but in the meantime we wanted to take advantage of the open space," Hudspeth said.

The lot where Tony's stood has been vacant for more than two years, since the building caught fire and interrupted the once-traditional spring festival, Fest-i-fun.

With the addition of the checkerboard and the benches - which were created by Winthrop University art students - the property expands Confederate Park and, Hudspeth said, he hopes the changes will invite residents to visit and gather in the downtown area.

Hudspeth said the town is looking into creating or purchasing oversized checkers and possibly even chess pieces visitors can use to play games on the board. A Winthrop spokeswoman said the stone benches are on loan to the town for as long as the town wants to keep them there.

Mack said he was pleased the town could use the property while he waits for the right timing to redevelop it.

"If it will beautify the area and the citizens will use it, then that's fine and I'm happy for it," Mack said.

The town is also considering an art installation at the site after being contacted by an artist interesting in displaying one of his pieces there. Hudspeth said the mini-park may eventually have a spot for a rotating art installation, allowing the town to feature local artists' work in the prominent downtown spot.

Next door to the lot is the Art Mill, a multi-use gallery and studio run by the Fort Mill Art Guild.

A lot at the top of Main Street, next to Hardee's, may be the next downtown locale to receive an upgrade. The town has planted grass at the property and is considering a visual art installation on that site as well.

"It may be just more of a visual piece there, so people can look at it when they drive by, but I don't know what that might be yet," Hudspeth said. "We really haven't decided."

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