PIEDMONT, SC (WSPA) – The revitalization of downtown Piedmont is back on track. Developers had to pump the breaks on the project when the pandemic hit.

Piedmont’s Mill Village used to be a vibrant place, straddling both Greenville and Anderson Counties.

“There were two mills right here in Piedmont. One was on the Anderson side. One was on the Greenville side and there was a footbridge that went in between,” said Councilman Lynn Ballard, Greenville County, District 26.

“My late wife was born in Pelzer and grew up in Piedmont, and when I first got elected, she started on me that day, “When are you going to bring downtown Piedmont back to life because this used to be vital and a vibrant place?” Ballard said.

“This whole community was nice place to live. People took care of their homes, kept their grass cut. Good neighbors. It’s been sad to see it go downhill,” said Davy Darnell.

Darnell owns property nearby, and used to work at one of the plants.

Back in 2019, counties and developers starting talking about how they could bring life back to the dead space, until COVID-19 halted everything.

“COVID. I mean plain and simple,” Ballard said. “Bankers were reluctant to go into something brand new. When we didn’t know what was going to happen to the economy,” he said.

Two projects in one, are finally ramping back up again.

“My group, Piedmont Village Partners, I’m the managing partner and bought the 12.6 acres on the river below the community center,” said Brad Skelton, Owner of Red Oak Developers. “

“Our original plan was to always put some kind of residential there with probably some commercial component originally, and then of course COVID hit and stopped us all a little bit,” Skelton said. “We’ll build somewhere between 95 and 105 townhomes,” Skelton said. “The townhomes will probably be two or three bedrooms starting in the high 2’s and 3’s.”

“We’ve got a lot of plans to not only do that but along with West Cox, who is our state representative, we’re going to put the pedestrian bridge across the river, so I’m spearheading that with him,” Skelton said. “We’ll be putting the kayak take in and take out below the dam for the kayakers. Yeah, it’s a private development, but we will have public access on the shoreline for people to come in and utilize,” he said.

Skelton said his side will be a $22 to $24 million project when it’s done. 

“This will all be a nice housing area with a park and a walk down by the river,” Ballard said. “The kayakers can come down and walk around the dam and put back in, and go on to Pelzer on down the river. They’re hoping to draw people in,” Ballard said.

A development is still in the works to the old Mercantile building, as well.

Despite setback, leaders hope construction set to start soon will only be the beginning.

“I would say really we’re bringing the building back to life which will in turn, bring the little village back to life,” Webb said. “We’re bringing business back to Piedmont, that’s what people are getting excited about.

“We think this is going to spur more growth. More housing to be developed around here. More businesses to come here,” Ballard said.

Darnell hopes it all happens soon.

“Interior demolition is going to start in March. We had planned to start renovations of the building in March of 2020 with the opening at the end of 2020,” Webb said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know how long this is going to take, because of supply chain issues right now. The cost have increased considerably just since August when we started repricing things. So, the cost has gone up. We’re at a $6 million for this building,” Webb said.

Skelton said the developments around the river are set to kick off this summer.