Opinion

Improving Saluda Street

The problems facing Saluda Street are daunting, but we hope the city does not give up on efforts to revive this important southern corridor.

The neighborhoods along Saluda once made up the center of commerce for the city's black community. But over time, businesses have folded, buildings have been abandoned and some sections of the street have become rundown. Community Cash, the last, full-service grocery store in the neighborhood closed in 1999.

The city, hoping to jump-start new development along Saluda and in the adjacent neighborhoods, has spent $4.5 million over nearly four years on road improvements and other infrastructure upgrades. City crews buried overhead utility wires, installed new sidewalks and improved stormwater drainage.

This effort is similar, although on a much smaller scale, to the beautification of Cherry Road, another of the city's traditional commercial arteries. The city -- with financial assistance from York County -- spent $12 million to bury utility lines, rebuild sidewalks, plant flowers and trees and install new storm sewers along Cherry Road.

That investment undoubtedly was a factor in the decision to build a Super Bi-Lo complex on the site of the old Rock Hill Mall property that also had been the site of the Catawba Indian bingo operation. A former Winn Dixie grocery store building also now is occupied by Compare Foods.

City officials and members of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. hoped that they would get similar results with a facelift of Saluda. So far, however, that hasn't happened.

The old Edison Mall, once a center of commerce along the street, now is largely empty. The mall itself needs considerable repairs and a facelift, and the parking lot is full of cracks and potholes.

While a number of businesses operate up and down Saluda, the neighborhood still lacks a grocery store. Despite the improvements, Saluda does not have the essential mix of shops and businesses usually found in a thriving neighborhood.

Stephen Turner, director of RHEDC, said this month that the area around the old mall is "just a disaster." But, he added, too much has been invested to walk away now.

While the lack of progress is discouraging, it is reassuring to know that the city remains committed to attracting development to this neighborhood. New investment and business on Saluda not only would help improve one of the major entries to the city but also would help ensure the continued economic health of nearby neighborhoods.

Last week, city officials announced an agreement to invest $3 million for roads and infrastructure to help create a new retail hub on 175 acres near the Rock Hill Galleria. The Warren Norman Co., which owns the property, plans to put up $2.5 million if its own money to develop the land. Saluda Street could use an investor with deep pockets like that to tip the scales in its favor.

RHEDC bought and renovated downtown properties to encourage investment there. It might do the same with the Edison Mall, if the price were reasonable. Ideally, the city would have a committed tenant in the wings, willing to open an anchor business at the mall such as a grocery store or a pharmacy.

We think the city deserves credit for its efforts in this neglected part of the city. We hope officials will remain on track in trying to lure new investment along Saluda and improve the lives of nearby residents in the process.

IN SUMMARY

Despite $4.5 million in improvements, Saluda Street still has not attracted development.

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