Eyeing revitalization, Pee Dee counties focus on downtown revitalizations

Southeast Region

MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Nichols’s town administrator said she is “building from my heart” about the city’s potential.

“I wanted to give up on it so many times,” Sandee Rogers said. “I feel called here. I feel led here, and I feel like my job isn’t done yet.”

As population counts decline across the Pee Dee, she’s dedicated to making the area a place for both the young and the old to thrive.

That includes taking advantage of the area’s natural resources. However, after experiencing two catastrophic floods within five years, rivers can be both an asset — and a threat.

“We pray we never flood again, and our residents do, as well, but if we do, what we want to see happen is any business, any home, it floods and they never have to leave,” Rogers said. “They never have enough damage to cause them a problem. So having a resilient downtown would mean elevating it, because it is in a low area. That’s where we get a lot of water.”

She’s working on securing grants that’ll fund a plan for a resilient downtown. After the recent opening of a boutique and a distribution center, she’s optimistic about it’s success.

“There is something here that I know it’s going to work out, and I know it’s going to work out for good,” she said.

Lake View is also trying to harness the area’s natural assets to fuel revitalization. Mayor Dennis Townsend said the city is working with an outside contractor to develop a strategic plan to boost the town’s economy.

That plan includes a project at Pages Mill Pond that Townsend hopes will include walking paths, kayaking, fishing, camping and spots with RVs. He thinks that if people know they’re 10 minutes away from downtown, they’ll walk there.

In Mullins, officials are looking to revive neighborhoods by targeting buildings that have been deemed unfit for habitation.

“We’re making up our mind that we want to see our city look beautiful, and to remain safe, and so these properties were causing the opposite,” Mayor Robert Woodbury said.

And in Dillon County, officials are eyeing murals.

“We have to figure out how to strategize and come up with ways — innovative ideas, strategic thinking — to enhance our city, find our niche in Dillon to make people say, ‘Hey, this is somewhere we want to live and stay,'” said Dillon County Councilman Jamal Campbell.

Strategies are working in Marion, where a board member for the Historical Marion Revitalization Association said the area has looked the most vibrant it has in years.

“People are kind of pushing back living in a small-town lifestyle — but yet close to an hour away from Myrtle Beach, so I think that helps us to have a small-town feel, but not being far away from the beach,” Donny Gerald said.

That hope is alive for local businesses.

“It’s a great place,” said Marleen Lane, who owns Designs by Marleen and More in Dillon County. “It just needs to be rebuilt up with the buildings and to bring back good businesses and downtown to where it’s family-oriented.”

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