2009-06-12 / Business

Well rounded... We are Cayce, S.C.

By Mike Cox Cox-star@sc.rr.com

A charrette is an organized meeting where a group of interested parties design something to benefit the group. Usually several sub- groups gather information and then present the findings to the overall group.

Charrette comes from the French word for small cart or chariot. The current usage comes from the Ecole des Beaux- Arts school in Paris, where architectural students would continue working on a presentation while riding in the school cart up to the time the project was delivered to a professor. The term became associated with working to a deadline.

Cayce mayor Elise Partin said she was concerned about the future of her adopted city and wanted a master plan that would move Cayce in a direction that all residents felt was important.

"In Alice in Wonderland

when Alice asked the Cheshire cat which direction she should take, he asked her where she wanted to go. When she replied she didn't know, she was told it didn't matter which direction she took."

Cayce has many of the same issues as other small communities in the South. Cayce has a solid citizenry of long term residents who identify with and love the place they live but a stagnant economy with little or no growth.

Based on advice from the state municipal association, the Cayce City Council voted to hire Community Design Solutions (CDS) to organize this brainstorming session and develop a long range plan for directed growth.

This Master Plan Charrette took place during the week of May 18. Several meetings were held where business owners and citizens were asked specific questions about what was right about their city and what needed to be added to make it a better place.

In addition to questions, the folks attending the meetings were encouraged to give their thoughts about Cayce's future. The people running the Charrette also pro- actively polled people in the general area.

Thursday May 21, the group gave Cayce and its citizens its initial report. Cayce has a broad area to draw from. Primarily there are three counties with Lexington accounting for more than half of the potential business. While there is considerable travel in the surrounding area, mostly on Interstates 77 and 26, little effect is felt by Cayce.

In the primary trade areas business gained $54 million last year. In secondary trade areas, business leaked $185 million in that same time period. The opportunity to grow revenue was defined in several areas.

Electronics and appliance sales are leaking $24 million annually and could support 14,000 sq. ft. in space. A lack of clothing stores is causing an annual leak of $54 million and could support 31,000 sq. ft. The findings also support a need for a 6800 sq. ft. sporting goods store.

In addition, absence of grocery stores is causing a leak of $49 million and the area could support a Wal- Mart size general merchandise store. Cayce also could benefit from the following: hobby and craft, office supplies, books, florists, and drinking places. The findings also suggest just any business won't fill the void. Stores with high quality products and sound business plans are imperative. The focus should also be drawing the large number of visitors in the surrounding area to Cayce.

The emphasis was on establishing the phrase "well rounded" and branding entry roads and buildings with this logo. Several versions were presented as possibilities, but the overall idea is to make the logo available for products and brand the city, making it distinctive from the other areas of the Midlands.

CDS gave examples of possible improvements using artists' renderings of local areas with before and after pictures. There were even examples of how to improve existing businesses and some that are currently vacant.

The proposed next step is to gather information from area investors to see if Cayce is currently a preferred choice for them. Other cities that have already gone through this process will be contacted to study the best practices for proceeding.

Recommendations to the Cayce City Council for improving the business climate are high on the list. There is also a need to report back to the city and its residents about results and to celebrate success.

Mayor Partin said the city got "so much more than our money's worth" in both the support of the planners and the input from residents and business owners in Cayce.

When asked if there was one surprise during the process; one moment she didn't expect, the mayor said that when the defining statement was read at the presentation she got chills, and the room erupted in applause. The statement was designed to encompass the feeling of living in Cayce and according to those involved, the result was much more than imagined. It says:

Well Rounded. We are Cayce, South Carolina. We are proud to be part of a 12,000 year history of people living right here on the banks of the Congaree. We celebrate the story of our brick works and the buildings that they built, and our speedway and the champions that it created. We celebrate our neighborhoods and we embrace our river. We are connected to the world with our interstates and airport, but have managed to preserve small town life in the heart of a bustling region. We are families and we are business, we are schools and we are nature. We are our past and we are our future. We are Cayce.

The Charrette is off to a great start. Stay tuned.

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