“We want this project to be transformative”: pedestrian accessibility and one-way street in the plans of the RR corner |
An architectural firm presented the city of Orangeburg with three different possibilities for the redevelopment of Railroad Corner.
The possibilities range from the complete preservation of the building to a completely new development.
Each scenario requires residential spaces on the top floor, commercial / commercial, cultural / museum spaces, and parking on the ground floor. They are also asking for green spaces and a pedestrian zone.
“We need to think about the possibility of walking on this site and creating a more inviting place between the university and the city center,” said Sarah Dickerson, designer at architecture firm Perkins & Will.
“At the moment there are difficulties crossing the street and how can we make it a little easier for people walking in this area,” she said.
Representatives from North Carolina-based Perkins & Will presented their proposals Thursday at a workshop with city and community leaders.
The three proposals would also make Boulevard Street a one-way street and create a commercial pedestrian plaza around the corner. Some discussions have also included the possibility of closing a section of the boulevard so that it is used only for pedestrian traffic.
“There’s the challenge of getting people on foot,” said P&W architect Malcolm Davis. “We know it can be a challenge here.”
Davis said the suggestions include a walkway or elevated bridge connecting both Claflin University and South Carolina State University around the corner.
“We came to understand how students currently move perhaps not in the safest way – some walk on railroad tracks etc. which would frighten most of their parents. It happens, ”Davis said.
Davis also said there may also be improvements to the intersection of Magnolia and Russell Streets to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
“Everything would require partnerships with the SCDOT (…) and the railway companies,” he said.
Davis said it had been suggested to take the students across near the current Claflin University Visitor Center and onto the Railroad Corner, or to create a “culture trail.”
He said the culture trail could serve as an interpretive historic trail starting at the South Carolina State University campus, passing through Claflin or along Magnolia Street to the Railroad Corner.
Davis said the trail could mimic the paths students have taken during civil rights protests and other movements in the past.
“These are the ideas that are starting to circulate on how we can respond to the challenges and the problem of moving students into a high way with the potential for cultural opportunities,” Davis said.
The city of Orangeburg’s leaders have been keeping their eyes on the revitalization of the historic Railroad Corner for many years.
The corner – which is traditionally defined as the area bounded by Russell Streets, Treadwell and Boulevard – has often been called the city’s “gateway” and a key part of the future development of the downtown district of ‘Orangeburg.
Over the past four years, the city has purchased a number of properties on Railroad Corner to help lock in its revitalization plans.
The city hired the University of North Carolina Development Finance Initiative to support it in the property development process and to present the project to a private developer.
The purpose of Thursday’s mid-term council working session was to take stock of the progress of Railroad Corner and provide an opportunity for elected officials, university leaders and representatives to provide feedback on the design. and connectivity to the site.
Participants broke into small group discussions to discuss and reflect on questions such as:
- What are your initial reactions to the idea of turning Boulevard Street into a one-way street?
- What are your first thoughts on a pedestrian bridge connecting the Railroad Corner to universities?
- Do you have any comments on the current mix of uses proposed for the site (cultural, commercial, residential)?
Project officials stressed that any residential use for students would involve a partnership with universities and stressed that the project “is not intended to compete in any way with current university revenue sources.”
“We want it to be complementary,” said Sonyia Turner, UNC-DFI project manager.
The general public did not participate in the group sessions, but people were encouraged to participate or ask questions of officials present on the project.
Project leaders seek above all to preserve buildings with historic facades if possible.
These include the State Theater and the College Soda Shop. There have been discussions about the location of an African-American civil rights museum at the State Theater.
Davis said the effort will be aimed at remembering the importance of the corner and the civil rights movement.
“It’s a proud story. We think there is great and fertile ground to tell this story and use this nostalgic attitude – all the great things that have happened with the students and citizens of this city, ”Davis said. very positive while remembering that past history and how those things could be tapped as a destination, if you will, between, say, Charleston and Columbia. “
The three project development scenarios offered by P&W include:
- Preserve and Fill: The main objective is to preserve all buildings on the site and restore them with targeted commercial and commercial uses and by overlaying the area with mixed uses and residential uses.
“He holds the historic corner and really brings it back to the corner that was there,” said P&W landscape architect Allen Pratt.
He said there are additional tax credits that could be helpful in this scenario.
- Reuse and energize: The main objective would be to conserve certain historical elements on the site, but not necessarily the buildings.
“It would reallocate facades, foundations or building materials in new and interesting ways that would activate the site and give us a sense of nostalgia, maintain a sense of place and history, but give us the advantage of a new architecture, ”Pratt said.
Pratt said this design would open up the site, creating passage opportunities with urban spaces and plazas combined with retail.
He said the design would allow individuals to walk to or get to Railroad Corner as a destination.
- Regenerate and Recover: Completely new building.
“Preservation might not be possible in the end,” Pratt said. “Engineering, economics, structure and other things could come into play.”
Pratt said this design scenario would incorporate and maintain pedestrian zones and add mixed-use development. He said there would be more flexibility when it comes to building footprints and parking.
“It’s a scenario to consider, but it’s a scenario where you have to be mindful of how the architecture takes shape and it doesn’t lose that context and is grounded in the site,” said Pratt.
He said that even with new construction, the emphasis would be on using materials to “keep a sense of place”.
Turner said the project created some buzz.
“There has been demonstrated interest from potential local tenants,” said Turner. “There has already been interest.
Turner said there are two investment groups that have approached the city about the project. Turner did not provide details.
So far, the project has included a plot analysis, a site-specific market analysis and the first phase of the public engagement process. He will soon go into site planning and financial feasibility analysis.
Turner said the market analysis showed weak market demand for retail, residential and office businesses, and increased market demand for affordable uses.
“We believe there is a strong case for investing in the Railroad Corner,” said Turner. “There is local, state and investor interest. We have seen similar projects like this succeed in other areas.
She said there were signs of hope such as the new library and new town hall, as well as a proposed project at the All-Star bowling alley.
The public’s contribution included the demand for college-friendly activities, a museum, entertainment, recreation and restaurants.
“The Orangeburg community is very invested in what’s going on in this area,” said Turner.
Following Thursday’s meeting, P&W will meet with municipal staff and develop a conceptual concept for Railroad Corner.
Then there will be more public engagement.
Orangeburg city council will vote on the development plan. The plan will then be presented to a private development company to build it.
Completion of the financial feasibility study and the DFI site is expected in the fall and the second phase of public engagement is scheduled for this winter.
The end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022 is the target of the solicitation of development partners, according to DFI.
City administrator Sidney Evering said the city will strive to be as transparent as possible throughout the process by continuously engaging the public.
“This is a City of Orangeburg project,” Evering said. “It means it includes everyone. The only way for this project to be successful is to have your opinion, your comments, your thoughts, your ideas, because at the end of the day, it is your project.
“We want this project to be transformative,” said Evering. “We want this to change and raise the perception of Orangeburg. This project is lucky and will. This will be the keystone of the future development of Orangeburg. We want it to be a place that people from all over the state, from all over the world can come and visit. “
Orangeburg Mayor Pro Tem Dr Kalu Kalu said he envisions Railroad Corner as a key gathering place for students and that community such as Five Points in Columbia has become a gathering place for students. from the University of South Carolina.
He said the redevelopment is important to keep young professionals in Orangeburg.
“Orangeburg can be a great place and a great place,” Kalu said.
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, asked if adjoining property owners and university officials had been involved in the process.
Evering said the universities were engaged.
“They are an integral part of this project,” Evering said. “We want students to leave campus and come here. One of the things we hear from students is that there is nothing to do in Orangeburg. This is meant to change that. We want our students to stay here.
Evering also said the owners of contiguous properties are and will continue to be engaged.
The latest updates are available online at: orangeburg.sc.us/railroadcorner