Changing the face of North Jefferies
by The Press and Standard | August 1, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: July 31, 2019 at 9:34 am
The task of changing the face of the 600 and 700 blocks of North Jefferies Boulevard continued last week.
An old car wash and an out-building at 621 N. Jefferies Blvd. came down quickly the morning of July 20 and workers began the process of hauling away the debris on July 22.
Walterboro Assistant City Manager Hank Amundson, who has the city’s economic development projects among his tasks, said the two buildings were substandard and “have not complied with the city’s property maintenance code for some time.”
However, the work to improve the development potential of the two blocks of Jefferies Boulevard has not been confined to the west side of the major Walterboro thoroughfare.
The afternoon of July 16 a demolition crew began the process of taking down the last remaining portion of the former Sweat Implement Inc. building at 720 N. Jefferies Blvd.
By July 19, all of the demolition debris from that building had been hauled off.
The demolition crew also razed most of the small building just south at 714 N. Jefferies Blvd. Steedley Monument Co. previously used that building to display their products.
Amundson said the workers from Target Contractors were hired by building owner Charlie Sweat to remove the remaining portion of the Sweat Implement building and the smaller structure as a follow up to the initial demolition ordered by the city.
Target was used by the city to demolish the first two-thirds of the Sweat Implement building after the building was declared a safety hazard.
Amundson said he hopes that the demolition of the old buildings will make those sites more attractive to developers. “A clean and green site should have more interest than one having an old building on it,” he said.
But the transformation isn’t all about demolition. A couple of hundred feet to the north, a construction crew is in the midst of constructing the new Parker’s that will take up residence at 774 N. Jefferies Blvd.
In addition to constructing a new building on that section of Jefferies Boulevard, the company is paying much of the cost of the traffic light improvements for the intersection of North Jefferies and Bells Highway. Parker’s also promised the city that it ready to cover the costs of matching the I-95 Business Loop Project when it reaches its property.
Amundson sees the new Parker’s operation as having a positive impact in drawing more commercial interest to the 600 and 700 blocks of Jefferies Boulevard. “My hope has been that it will show the viability of the area.” But, he added, he does not expect Parker’s to draw more commercial interest in the area until it opens. “They (the commercial developers) want to see it in operation and verify traffic counts and activity.”
He also anticipates more commercial interest in that area because of the beautification of the streetscape the city’s I-95 Business Loop Project will bring.
Amundson said a variety of reasons attributed to the accumulation of empty storefronts and vacant lots in that section of Jefferies Boulevard.
Some businesses (most recently Kentucky Fried Chicken) moved into new locations elsewhere in the city.
Others closed because their business models disappeared — remember the video rental business that spent a short time as a commercial resident of that area.
Some buildings remain unoccupied because of their substandard condition, possibly resulting in more demolition during this process.
In addition to the revitalization potential of Parker’s and the Loop Project, Amundson sees another factor that could favorably affect that section of North Jefferies Boulevard.
With all usable space in the shopping center anchored by Walmart used up, Amundson expects to see new commercial operations seeking space on Bells Highway.
That move is now happening, and the amount of viable commercial space on Bells Highway is dwindling. The next logical move, he said, will be for commercial developers to begin looking along North Jefferies Boulevard at the eastern end of Bells Highway.
“We are excited to see what the next year holds,” he said.