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Clemson: Small town feel amid growth

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By Teresa C. Hopkins
Published Feb. 8, 2016

The city of Clemson is growing while trying to maintain its “larger, small-town atmosphere,” according to Sharon Richardson, director of planning and codes for the city, who added that new development projects are the result of market demand. Two residential units are scheduled to be open in Clemson by the fall of 2017, and representatives from the city and Clemson University have formed a committee to study the growth in the city for how best to meet demands in the future.

Work has started at 139 Anderson Highway-U.S. Route 76 on the $25 million to $30 million Grandmarc of Clemson where Clemson Center once stood. The businesses that were once there have moved to other locations or closed.

Land has been cleared along and U.S. Route 123 where AnMed Clemson will be built. (Photo by Teresa C. Hopkins)
Land has been cleared along and U.S. Route 123 where AnMed Clemson will be built. (Photo by Teresa C. Hopkins)
Covering 9.5 acres, Grandmarc of Clemson will consist of 20,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as residential space offering 494 bedrooms and 2,000 square feet of space committed to an area nonprofit organization. Richardson said the plan is for Grandmarc to be open for residents by the fall of 2017.

The Fendley-Earle project also is scheduled to open for residents by the fall of 2017. The $40 million-$44 million mixed-use development covers 3.38 acres along the north side of Earle Street, east of Fendley Street and west of Foy Creek Drive in Clemson. The development will consist of commercial space and an apartment building with an attached six-level parking deck. It too is expected to be completed in time for fall 2017 occupancy.

Earlier this month the Clemson City Council gave final approval of the Pacolet Milliken Highway 76 master plan, 240-acre mixed-use development in Pickens County. The entire site spans 354 acres in Pickens and Anderson counties and previously was part of the Milliken Excelsior Plant tract.

Also being developed in Clemson is a new AnMed Health facility. Ground has been broken on a $9.6 million, 22,100-square-foot building next door to its current building at 885 Tiger Blvd. and U.S. Route 123. AnMed also plans a $2 million renovation of the existing building, and when completed, the combined projects will provide space for five practices. Construction of the new building is expected to take about eight months.

When asked if Clemson was growing too fast, Richardson said she would leave that up to others to decide.

“I’m just trying to do my best to make certain that what we are getting is as good and sustainable as we can make it through reasonable planning practices. The market is the one, in many cases, making the decision,” said Richardson, who added the city is largely developed and any future work would consist of renovating old structures and property.

“If you look at our land use map we did a year ago, particularly in the residential areas, we’re pushing 90% developed,” she said. “Pacolet-Milliken was the last large undeveloped tract in the city and it will probably take several years before you start to see people living out there.”

Richardson said the growth depends on perspective. “I think we’re growing because the market is driving it.

“The university has grown 30% in the last 10 years, that’s fueling a lot of it. And Clemson being named a top retirement destination area by Forbes magazine has drawn attention,” she said. “A lot of people want to be in Clemson because it is just a fun and exciting place. You have quality schools in the area and you have the small town feel with many of the big-city amenities. For a lot of folks, if you went to Clemson University, this is where you want to be.”

Richardson said the city tends not to have many houses for sale because “once people are here, they stay,” so houses aren’t turning over.

To better understand the city’s growth and housing needs, Richardson is working with the Joint City-University Advisory Board to do a housing needs assessment. The committee will consist of representatives from the university, planning commission and the city.

“We want to try to truly quantify a lot of the needs that are out there that are right now largely anecdotal,” she said. “The reality is, when you don’t have sale data and you don’t have a lot of land for new development, it kind of looks like there’s not a demand. But when it is not turning over and there is no place to build, that’s kind of masked by traditional things market researchers look for.”

Since the city is mostly built out, Richardson said future development will be infill, which will require public engagement.

“Infill and redevelopment can be fairly painful for a community, because it changes existing patterns and the existing fabric of that community,” she said. “Our challenge as we grow is to retain that sense of Clemson.”

Reach Teresa C. Hopkins at 864-235-5677, ext. 103, or @SCBizTeresa on Twitter.

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