BY DAVE BLANK
Once upon a time there was an old carpet mill town that had seen better days. A river flowed through it. You could tell the color of the carpet that was being made that day because it was the same color as the river. The colorful water cascaded over a waterfall, only no one could see it because it was underneath a highway bridge. It truly was a forgotten river.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit that town – a town of 60,000 that now is known to have one of the best downtowns in the country. Oh, and that waterfall – the bridge was torn down so that it is a prime gathering spot for residents and tourists alike.
The city is Greenville, South Carolina.
It’s taken over 40 years to complete the transformation. Strolling down Main Street, you can tell that this was a city that Roger Brooks (who Real Racine brought in last year to help better the downtowns of Racine County) had visited. It was a pedestrian friendly downtown, teeming with shoppers and downtown workers enjoying lunch with their counterparts.
There was free diagonal parking with one lane of traffic moving at a controlled rate in each direction. The wayfinding signage was easy to read and understand and there were lots of gathering places. The retail stores were open in the evenings and on weekends. High rise cranes sprouted up throughout the area building more office space, condos and apartments.
This could be Racine in the near future. We’ve already started down the road of rebuilding the downtown. We are blessed with a river – and a lakefront. Both are areas that draw people and encourage them to live, work and play here. We are in the “center of things,” just like Greenville, with easy access to big city amenities. I’ve seen the future of Racine, and it looks pretty awesome.
Dave Blank is the president/CEO of Real Racine (Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau).