Work set to begin soon at Hartwell Village
By Steven Bradley
SENECA — After more than its share of delays, construction on a major retail and restaurant development near Clemson finally appears to be imminent.
Tom Lowell, director of construction and development for Casto, the developer of the project, gave an update on the timeline for Hartwell Village to the Oconee Economic Alliance board of directors at its meeting Friday.
“Over the next week or so, you’ll see some big trucks and other equipment showing up, and they’ll start moving dirt,” he said.
Vertical construction is expected to begin in July, according to Lowell, who said the first phase of the project will include about 120,000 square feet of building space and is slated to open in the spring of 2018.
All told, Hartwell Village is planned for 275,000-300,000 square feet of commercial development, which will include not only retail stores and restaurants, but also a hotel, office space and “probably some residential at some point,” Lowell said.
He also confirmed the five tenants previously reported by The Journal — Michaels, Marshalls, Ulta Beauty, Rack Room Shoes and Five Below — have all signed leases.
Lowell also confirmed a parcel has been sold to a developer for a Tru by Hilton hotel, which he said would be the first in South Carolina. The concept features smaller rooms and larger common space and caters to a more “millennial kind of traveler.”
Lowell said infrastructure and site work will be included in the project’s first phase, while additional building construction will take place in future phases — which would include “additional restaurants and possibly some residential in the future.”
A peninsula of the property that had once featured a theater on the company’s site plan is now under contract to “someone who is looking at residential use,” though the deal has not yet closed.
Off-site work on traffic signals at two of the entrances to the development, as well as to the intersection of U.S. Highway 123 and S.C. Highway 93, is expected to begin in “the next 30 days or so” and has already received S.C. Department of Transportation approval.
The DOT has asked Casto to remove what Lowell called a “slip lane” — or flyaway lane — off U.S. 123 onto S.C. 93 and modify it into a double right turn lane at the signal.
“That signal is only going to be activated when someone is making a left turn (from U.S. 123 onto S.C. 93 going the opposite direction),” he said. “So essentially it just modifies how that (right turn) occurs. It slows the speed down a little bit.”
Other improvements include turning lanes and two signals, which he said will have steel mast arms. The other traffic signals will be located at the intersection of S.C. 93 and Seneca Creek Road and on U.S. 123 near the spot where the fountain of the former Milliken textile plant was located.
Part of the developer’s agreement with Oconee County requires the center to comply with certain design standards that Lowell said would focus on aesthetics and “walkability.”
“With shopping centers, sometimes you see the old ones where it is asphalt and no landscape,” he said. “The aesthetics are an important component of what we do today. How the building looks, how the landscape looks — all those are things people care about today.”
Lowell said there would be a system of sidewalks connecting the outbuildings to the remainder of the shopping center to allow visitors to walk the entire development regardless of where they park.
The concept for the outer buildings, Lowell said, includes courtyards for restaurant patrons to enjoy outdoor seating.
In addressing some of the delays with the project, Lowell compared developing a retail center such as Hartwell Village to the process of beginning a subdivision.
“Everybody has to agree to the roadway that’s going to be put in,” he said. “Everybody has to agree what the other’s house is going to look like. So all these people have to sign up to build their houses at exactly the same time, with everybody agreeing. … So we have to go through and deal with the retailers on that basis.
“‘I like so-and-so; I don’t like so-and-so. This one can sell this; we can only sell that.’ It takes quite a bit of time to work through those agreements.”