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Developers move forward with Piedmont riverfront community

Molly Hulsey //March 2, 2022//

Developers move forward with Piedmont riverfront community

Molly Hulsey //March 2, 2022//

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Piedmont resident Paul Porter snaps a picture of the Piedmont Mill dam, existing pedestrian bridge and in the distance, a smokestack from one of the original Piedmont Manufacturing mills. (Photo/Provided)This story first appeared in the Feb. 21 print edition of GSA Business Report.

Developers of a green townhouse community on the banks of a Saluda River mill dam plan to break ground this spring after a two-year pause.

In 2019, Red Oak Developers went public with plans to create a hydro-powered residential development within the bones of 1876-era Piedmont Mill One.

Only a smokestack stands from the original mill itself following a 1983 fire, but at one point, according to the S.C. Historic Properties Record, Piedmont Manufacturing’s Henry Hammett built out the property to be one of the largest textile plants in the world in the 1800s.

The Saluda River dam, a footbridge across the river between two of the Piedmont mill sites and a soon-to-be renovated mercantile space remain, laying the groundwork for what Red Oak Developer’s Brad Skelton hopes will become a “cool urban living” space.

The area is “prime for the pickings,” he said, with Piedmont’s close proximity to Greenville and cheaper property than in most municipalities in the county. The historic structures and corresponding tax credits also sweeten the pot.

“I think it will be more of a millennial vibe maybe. In the town of Piedmont itself, which is contiguous, there are several developers who are already upfitting some of the old building there,” he said. “There’s already a co-work space in an old bank there.”

Plans for the refurbished mercantile space will also cater to the younger demographic: a coffee shop, taphouse, cafe and five art studios committed to lease the space several years ago, according to developer KDS Commercial Properties.

Skelton aims to build out 90 to 105 three-level townhomes in Piedmont Village, as well as 25,000-square-feet of commercial space set to house the Saluda Falls Brewery.  An eight-foot pedestrian bridge will be reconstructed on the Anderson County side of the Saluda River, which will be dotted with kayak put-ins and accompanied by a trail network once the community is complete.

“We’ve got a builder — we’re probably 90 to 120 days before we start moving dirt down there,” he said, adding that he couldn’t share his contractor yet. “We’ve got all of our due diligence down, we bought the property, we own it.”

The CEO and owner of Red Oak Development is less sure today that the community’s reliance on the Piedmont Hydro Electric Project for power will come through — “there’s still an outside chance that could happen,” he said — but the village will still center around green building practices and designers will pursue LEED certification.

Semi-underground waste and recycling containers distributed by Greenville-based Sutera will be installed across the property, limiting leakage and pollution into the river.

“You don’t have to build an enclosure, you don’t have to have a dumpster, you don’t have all that juice coming out,” Skelton said. “Everything stays in the container: it’s a much more environmentally sound unit.”

Coldwell Banker Caine signed on in 2019 as the community’s real estate partner.