"There is nothing happening in Orangeburg."
That is just not accurate, Orangeburg County economic development and business leaders say of comparisons between Orangeburg and other locales.
Leaders say it is particularly inaccurate at the moment, pointing to a number of ongoing projects in the area such as a new grocery store, a new bank, a new discount store, a retail strip mall as well as land-clearing projects for future potential development.
"There is a lot going on," Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said. "We are back with the commercial activity and the economy is responding well. It is an overall indication of better employment and opportunities from a manufacturing perspective and commercial follows suit."
Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Melinda Jackson said the number of projects in and around Orangeburg are a positive for the area.
"Competition keeps us all on our feet and can be quite healthy," she said. "The new bank will surely be a showpiece and the grocery store couldn’t be in a more prime location."
"It’s a great time to live in a small town," Jackson said. "Not only are we growing in new business developments, but we are also growing in collaborative efforts."
Jackson cited a renewed understanding of the need to work together for the betterment of the county and its municipalities.
"One Orangeburg is growing stronger in numbers and our education entities are pulling together to share great successes and real solutions for progress," she said. "It’s a great time to be in Orangeburg County and an even greater time to be a part of the chamber!"
North Road project
Government and business officials gathered Thursday to break ground for Orangeburg’s long-awaited North Road recreation complex.
About 60 acres of land has been cleared for future development.
Fort Motte Partners, a partnership of Century 21 The Moore Group and C.F. Evans Construction, is working to develop the 62-acre tract adjacent to the North Road Walmart.
The development is expected to include restaurants, retail outlets, an entertainment complex with possible movie theater, as well as a hotel and residential areas.
Green space to include walking paths, ponds and open spaces is also planned.
"We have had a good bit of interest," Century 21 The Moore Group President Marion Moore said. "We are so far behind because of weather getting the permitting done. We are looking at the end of April to get the final engineering permits in place. We were hoping to done by the end of January."
Through the middle of February, Moore said work was being done on the road and additional shaping and land clearing is also in the works.
"We are going at it as hard as we can," Moore said. "We are moving on it but it is a slow mover."
Construction on the property was to begin around the middle of 2006 but because of the economic downturn, development plans were put on hold. The target date was pushed into 2009 or possibly 2010.
By September 2016, the property remained untouched. Then that all changed. Crews spent several weeks in October felling trees on the property.
In order to maintain the uniqueness of the property, the magnolia trees will be preserved. The name of the property, which was formerly owned by the Wannamaker family from which the magnolia tree had its origins, will most likely be Magnolia Village.
Currently, the work being done is focused on infrastructure such as roads, sewer, water, engineering and traffic.
Construction on retail will begin by early 2018.
The project will coincide and tie in with the city's plans to build a recreational center behind Orangeburg Preparatory School.
German discount grocery chain Lidl is constructing a new store on North Road next to Sonic.
The company, a division of German retailer Schwarz Group, is building an approximately 36,000-square-foot standalone store.
As of mid-February, Lidl has not announced the Orangeburg store's opening date.
The company announced in May 2016 it plans to open stores in South Carolina, including Orangeburg, no later than 2018. It is the store's first entry into the U.S. market.
The grocer chose the area due to its high traffic, dense population and established retail locations.
Lidl will sell products with its own store label and offer fresh breads, produce and meat. In addition to groceries, the chain offers discounts on household appliances, clothes and furniture.
A typical Lidl store has between 30 and 35 employees.
The arrival of Lidl comes on the heels of another German grocery store, Aldi, which opened on Orangeburg’s North Road in March 2015.
Some news reports have likened Lidl to a cross between Walmart and California-based Trader Joe’s.
The chain also has plans for two other stores in the Midlands — one in Columbia and the other in Lexington.
A fitness center will join a furniture store and discount outlet at the former Kmart on Chestnut Street.
Plans are in place to redevelop the former Orangeburg Chestnut Street Kmart and Reid's buildings and property for new retail and dining establishments.
Grand Oak Realty LLC is seeking to develop the 85,000-square-foot Kmart building by subdividing it into three units to include a big-box retailer and grocery stores. Each unit would be from 31,000 to 48,000 square feet.
There are also plans to develop two standalone parcels -- about 4,800 square feet and 6,000 square feet -- on the front portion of the property to include small retail and dining space.
Plans are to begin construction by the first quarter of 2017, with opening by the second quarter of next year.
Grand Oak Realty Principal Brandon Graham said the property has received two letters of intent from retailers and lease agreements have been worked on but he does not have "express consent or liberty to disclose who they are."
The plans to develop the Reid's property may prove more challenging as the lease on the building does not expire until 2024. The former 40,000-square-foot grocery store is under lease by Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, which purchased Reid's in 2013. The Orangeburg Reid's closed in 2014.
Through the middle of February, project developers and property owners were still working on possible arrangements to develop the property either through a sublease or property purchase.
The entire property is seen as ideal for a shopping center, theater or even a call center.
The city would be responsible for any connection fees and business licensing.
The two properties are owned by a Columbia-based trust DWB Orangeburg LLC Interprop Inc. and DWB Orangeburg-Reids LLC.
Graham said the development would be self-funded by the ownership entity.
The Kmart store at 1470 Chestnut St. closed in early August 2016. Kmart had a presence in Orangeburg since October 1972.
GrandSouth Bank officials thanked the customers of Orangeburg’s newest bank at its official grand opening on Thursday.
GrandSouth Bank is constructing a branch at 1055 St. Matthews Road next to Orangeburg Mall.
A temporary bank is located at the same site until the standalone bank opens. The land is the former site of United Hospice of the Midlands. The building was torn down earlier in 2016.
Through the middle of February, the building's plumbing and electricity have been completed and the roof was being installed.
The 4,600-square-foot bank is expected to be open by late April or early May 2017.
Veteran Orangeburg bankers Allen Fairey and Michael Delaney, formerly of First Citizens Bank, both partnered in opening the bank.
Fairey serves as the bank's senior vice president and relationship manager and Delaney serves as the bank's senior vice president and market president.
When fully operational, GrandSouth will have 11 employees.
The bank will focus on the customer, customer service and taking care of the people when they walk in the door.
When completed, the bank building will have a three-bay drive-through. GrandSouth will not have an automatic teller machine, but customers can utilize other bank ATMs without paying a fee.
Greenville-based GrandSouth bank has branches in Greenville, Fountain Inn, Anderson and Greer. The bank is also in the process of opening a branch in Columbia.
The bank employs 136 people.
GrandSouth Bancorporation, the parent company, was founded in 1987.
St. Matthews Road strip mall
A new strip mall is expected to open in the spring or summer of 2018.
Heavy equipment was moving dirt on St. Matthews Road in preparation for the construction of a shopping strip mall, according to an Orangeburg building permit.
The land being cleared is at the corner of St. Matthews Road and Nelson Street next to the Walgreens and across the street from Grove Park shopping plaza.
The address of the vacant 15-acre property is 1580 St. Matthews Road.
The owner of the land is J&P Venture Group LLC with the registered agent named Man Suk Ha, according to South Carolina Secretary of State and county property records.
Attempts to reach the registered agent with the company were unsuccessful.
The building permit is from Dec. 16, 2016, to June 16, 2017. KG Contracting Company is the project contractor.
Sources close to the project say there are no specific retailers in place for the strip mall.
Dollar Tree opens
Dollar Tree opened its doors Feb. 9 at 1270 John C. Calhoun Drive.
The Dollar Tree is located at the former site of the Southland Restaurant across from Subway.
Dollar Tree carries items from housewares to party supplies. All items are $1 or less.
It will be the second Dollar Tree to open in Orangeburg. The other is on North Road near IHOP. There is also a Dollar Tree in Bamberg.
Virginia-based Dollar Tree, a Fortune 500 company, operates more than 14,000 stores across 48 states and five Canadian provinces. Stores operate under the brands of Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree Canada.
Former Prince of Orange Mall Sears
The McDonald's on North Road is being demolished with plans for a new, “state-of-the art” McDonald's restaurant to be built in its place.
Work is underway at the former Sears in the Prince of Orange Mall.
The space is being prepared for potential tenants, though none has been announced.
The mall is owned by Hull Property Group, which was formerly Hull Storey Gibson.
Sears Holdings, which is also the parent company of Kmart, announced in 2012 that it was closing about 120 stores across the nation, including Orangeburg’s Sears. The local store closed in May 2013.
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