Orangeburg's Ruf Road from Magnolia Street to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks has been paved and closed to traffic in preparation for low income housing and possibly a mixed use development project.
North Carolina-based real estate development firm Piedmont Companies Inc. plans to develop housing on the property as well as business/retail/restaurants on the approximately 8-acre property adjacent to Ruf Road, according to the company's website.
The roadwork, which includes paving, curb and gutter as well as markings striping, was done by the county with gasoline tax monies. The project cost about $500,000.
Several attempts to reach project developer Andrew Silver were unsuccessful.
Orangeburg County Council in July unanimously agreed to a request to close the train crossing on Ruf Road as part of the planned development.
Currently, the road is closed from Magnolia Street to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. Young said this portion will remain closed until work is complete.
The railroad crossing will be closed permanently.
Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the public road and railroad crossing had often been a heavy illegal dump site prompting the county to close the crossing.
He said the hopes are the development of the property will help discourage illegal dumping as well as improve the safety of Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns the tracks.
When asked why public monies are being used for a private development, Young said originally the road was paved for a governmental agency.
The agency, which Young did not disclose, had applied to the United States Department of Agriculture to use the property but the project has not yet been approved.
"The road is a public purpose and qualifies for c-funds due to this public purpose project for governmental agency," Young said.
Young said with the road paved, Piedmont decided to purchase lots with the intention to possibly build low income housing.
Young referred all specific questions about the project itself to Piedmont.
The work is just the beginning on what Piedmont officials have identified as a larger Destination 601 project, which was announced in January 2018.
Destination 601, which is the featured project on Piedmont's website, is described as becoming a "premier regional dining, shopping and entertainment experience" for the Orangeburg area.
"The power center will front on Highway 601 and will have a European style boulevard of fountains, shops and restaurants leading to a new arena that will serve as the sporting and cultural hub for the region," according to Piedmont's website. "Space is available for restaurants and retail of all sizes in both inline and stand-alone configurations."
The projected $120 million project entails a total of about 170 acres near the intersection of St. Matthews Road and Old St. Matthews Road.
The company in January 2018 also expressed its desire to build a movie theater as well as a bowling alley as part of the project.
Initial projections have the development containing about 10 sit-down restaurants, six fast food restaurants, ten retailers, a grocery store, two hotels and a senior living center, as well as a police substation.
It was also announced in January of last year that the project anticipates 300 to 400 single family homes.
The property has been cited for its location near Interstate 26, St. Matthews Road, schools and automobile dealerships, as well as the hospital.
Piedmont is no stranger to development in Orangeburg.
Piedmont developed the 17,000-square-foot Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 High School for Health Professions building, having invested between $6 million and $7 million for the project.
Piedmont helped develop the 30,000-square-foot Orangeburg County Department of Social Services building.
The company helped to develop the Sigmatex building in the John W. Matthews Industrial Park on U.S. Highway 301 near U.S. Highway 176.
The company had also once discussed developing property on the 1000 block of Russell Street across from the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities.
The development at the time was to include the construction of the county's library, office, retail and green space, along with an outdoor amphitheater.
The plans have not materialized, and public discussion of the plans has ceased.
The county has since announced its intention to build the new library at the site of the former Piggly Wiggly on Russell Street instead. Piedmont has entered into a contract with the county to build the library.