While the Simpsonville area retains its small-town charm, the region is growing, adapting, and continuing to realize its potential. Over the last two decades, the Simpsonville community has become a popular residential area for young couples, families and retirees due to its proximity to larger cities like Greenville and its convenient offerings for shopping, dining and recreation. At the same time, the population in the city limits has increased by about 133 percent, and the trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
While the numbers of residents and rooftops have increased over time, the pace of local commercial development has not always kept up. Understandably, the Great Recession hurt many investors with eyes on Simpsonville, and put many plans on pause.
The challenge for Simpsonville today is embracing a future of economic growth while honoring our past and preserving our identity. The community has a strong desire to keep its small-town charm, and leaders are sensitive to that desire when considering major shifts in planning and zoning strategies. Unfortunately, plots of land have gone underutilized, “for sale or lease” signs have lingered and residents have needed to drive 15-20 minutes to enjoy fine dining, shop for pet supplies or buy organic groceries.
Now, Simpsonville is accelerating economically with no signs of slowing down.
Simpsonville’s business landscape is best broken into four trending commercial areas: Downtown, Fairview Road/Harrison Bridge Road, West Georgia Road and the Five Forks area. Downtown offers the traditional Main Street business district with local shops and restaurants, community events and historic architecture. The Fairview Road/Harrison Bridge Road area features big box retailers and nationally branded commercial developments. Five Forks has an intriguing variety of local and regional franchises and smaller retailers. The West Georgia Road area includes the Brashier Campus of Greenville Technical College, medical offices, and grocery stores.
Each of these commercial areas is evolving to meet the needs of Simpsonville’s residents.
Downtown has seen a lot of transition in the last five years, with many storefronts changing hands and becoming destination retailers like specialty restaurants or bars, antique dealers, and unique gift stores. These types of businesses attract both visitors and residents, and offer a reason to “stay a while” and enjoy Simpsonville’s past and present.
The City of Simpsonville and Greenville County are working to bring a main trunk of the Swamp Rabbit Trail to downtown. Securing a connection to the popular trail is part of a larger effort by the city to create a city-wide trails plan. With a grant from the National Park Service, the city is working to bring multiple trail connections to Simpsonville.
Already on Main Street is the clock tower donated by former Mayor Ralph S. Hendricks in 1987. The clock tower is an important historical landmark that is itself a destination. As the city grows and adapts to a new economic climate, the clock tower is a reminder of where we come from as we learn where we are going.
The types of businesses in the Fairview Road/Harrison Bridge Road area have remained constant in recent years, but the size of this area is quickly expanding. A recent development in this commercial area is a 22.5-acre shopping center, where the most commercial building is taking place. The architecture of the buildings complements the heritage of the old farm land on which the center was developed. The shopping center now houses a Hobby Lobby, Publix and newly opened Chili’s, and will soon include Sharonview Federal Credit Union.
Other retailers that have come to the Fairview/Harrison Bridge roads area in recent years include Petco, PetSmart, Michaels, Planet Fitness and Bee Safe Storage. A new Aldi store recently opened. Tracts of land remain available in this area, so it is certain there is more to come in the years ahead.
The Five Forks area of Simpsonville boasts a median household income that’s more than twice that of the state’s, and a lot of the commercial development in the area serves that market. Lowes Foods is a regional grocery chain that opened a new store model in the area to offer fresh local produce, made-to-order meals and a full-service deli and bakery, plus all the brands typically found at a grocery store. A boutique fitness studio, fresh smoothie shop, and a salon have also joined the shopping strip.
In March, the Greenville County Library System’s newest branch opened in Five Forks. The 28,000-square-foot Five Forks Branch is the second largest out of all 12 branches, has two drive-up windows and offers the latest technology that makes checking materials in and out fast and efficient.
Although the West Georgia Road area may be the least developed, this area too is rapidly changing. The current renovation of Cotton Mill Commons to bring Class A apartments to the area is expected to increase property values and improve quality of life. In recent years, a Neighborhood Wal-Mart has opened, several multi-family complexes are in process, available land is being snatched up and announcements of planned developments should be made in the coming weeks and months.
As the momentum of economic growth and development builds and builds, it’s no wonder why the Simpsonville community continues to be a vibrant place for people to call home and earn a living. An expanding residential market has drawn a diverse selection of businesses that have created jobs for people served by new apartment and housing developments.
Simpsonville is proudly meeting the challenge of planning for its economic future while keeping its small-town charm with thoughtful sustainable growth.