Spartanburg business owners and city officials discuss ways to make Spartanburg more walkable

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – As part of its monthly “Caffeinated Conversation” meetings, the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce held a panel discussion Wednesday morning that focused on making Spartanburg a more pedestrian-friendly city.

There were four groups represented on the panel, including Spartanburg’s Design Review Board, Partners for Active Living, the Economic Development Department for the City of Spartanburg and Coldwell Banker Caine. Upstate Forever also played a large role in the organization of the meeting.

The meeting with Chamber of Commerce members was a follow up discussion to an event that took place in November of 2019, where Jeff Speck, a nationally known expert on city planning, offered his ideas publicly on how to make Spartanburg more walkable.

Those ideas included encouraging people to use parking garages rather than parking for free on the street, adding a protected bike lane that connects downtown Spartanburg to the Rail Trail, experimenting more with dock-less bikes and possibly dock-less scooters and making East Main Street safer for pedestrians.

Increasing safety on busier roads would involve enacting a “road diet” on several roads in Spartanburg by reducing the amount of travel lanes on certain streets, said Naomi Sargent, VP of Strategic Communications for the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce.

According to city officials, studies show that streets with four lanes, such as Kennedy Street, Union Street and East Main Street, can be narrowed to three lanes without any reduction in capacity. They hope to add on-street parking with the gained space along with a lane for bikers and room for pedestrians.

In line with Speck’s philosophy, the Chapman Cultural Center and the City of Spartanburg already added “creative crosswalks” across downtown in July, drawing attention to crosswalks to increase safety and add an artistic aesthetic that encourages people to walk more. New informational window wraps with the iconic Spartanburg dog “Chaser” were also added in 2019 to add to the charm of the city for pedestrians.

After partnering with Toole Design Group to conduct a walkability audit in downtown Spartanburg in 2019, the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce found an increase in pedestrians, particularly at night, since 2017.

An interest in increasing Spartanburg’s walkability is part of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce’s “One Spartanburg” five-year strategy to make the county more prosperous, VP of Strategic Communications Naomi Sargent said.

Sargent says the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Spartanburg plan to have a total of 1000 residential units within a 5 minute walk of downtown Spartanburg by 2025, which Speck argued could increase Spartanburg’s walkability.

Spartanburg County’s Comprehensive Plan is also in the beginning stages, so city officials are asking business owners and members of the community to attend council meetings for their input on walkability moving forward.

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