In 2022, the Mauldin City Center is set to open in Mauldin, South Carolina. As described by the Upstate Business Journal, the City Center is a 6.5-acre adaptive reuse project that will feature “a food hall, residential townhomes and a 25,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor entertainment complex.” It has an outdoor stage, a 5,000-square-foot patio, fire pits, pickleball and bocce ball spaces, and more. Oh, and a 100-space parking lot. The mayor and developer are excited about the City Center. Understandably so…because the project has been in the works for—count ‘em—12 years.
Twelve years is a long time. I hope it works out.
As Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn wrote back in February, when cities are evaluating priorities and projects, they must account for their effort not only in dollars but in terms of time. The City Center represents 12 years of land sitting idle. Twelve years of lost innovation, lost opportunity, lost tax revenue, lost energy. And while we may be picking on Mauldin right now, this same slow, increasingly risky process is being played out in towns and cities everywhere. “This is the tyranny we have created for ourselves with the Suburban Experiment,” Chuck wrote, “the process we use to develop our places all at once, in large blocks, to a finished state. When we at Strong Towns talk about the need to work incrementally, we are pushing back against big projects—yes—but we are also fighting against the waste of human capital and ingenuity that goes along with idling in place.”