In the life of a city, some community meetings beckon more than others. Tuesday night’s meeting about Morgan Square, on Morgan Square, was one of those events.
More than 200 local residents from all walks of life attended the unique outdoor meeting held on the community’s most cherished and well-known public space. They came to be among the first to see the initial options for a long-discussed and highly anticipated redesign of the Square, an idea that picked up momentum in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A little background for those who may be new to town: The pandemic prompted the City to restrict vehicular traffic along Morgan Square's W Main St. side to provide outdoor dining space — and a lifeline — to the Square’s restaurants, which were prohibited by the state from serving customers inside in the early days of the pandemic. The expanded outdoor pedestrian space proved to be wildly popular, turning what was formerly a beautiful but irregularly used space into one filled with people every day of the week. And data shows that more people visit Morgan Square today than even before the pandemic.
Recognizing the success of the street closure in bringing more activity to the Square, city partners such as OneSpartanburg, downtown business owners, and, most importantly, individual residents and taxpayers began prodding City Council to extend the street closure and explore options to enhance the Square's appeal as a pedestrian-centered space. In response, City Council approved a plan to study the issue, appointing a special committee last year to guide the process of identifying a redesign for the Square that will support the City’s long-term vision for downtown.
At every step of the way since, the City has collected public input, through surveys, public meetings, and design charettes. That feedback was used by planning consultants with to inform and guide the three proposed designs that were unveiled Tuesday night. Liz Richardson just moved back to Spartanburg and was excited by the new options to bring a more modern feel to Morgan Square. "What I really enjoyed were the multiple greenspaces, as well as water features. I feel like a water feature draws people together and gets them interactive with their environment," she offered.
Each design addresses the needs and wants that emerged as a consensus of the feedback gathered since the formal effort launched earlier this year. From the inclusion of ample greenspace and a long-term tree canopy plan, to outdoor dining space, facilities that will enable expanded concerts and events and a design that creates newfound cohesion and connectivity with the rest of downtown, each concept uses a variety of elements and approaches to address the community’s goals.
A quick recap of each of the designs:
๏ Concept 1 – Knitting Into the Urban Fabric The chapters of public life, daily commerce, and built form that have shaped Morgan Square through the centuries have left a unique imprint. When inscribed on the Square, these lines and layers of historical development provide a signature urban form that informs the arrangement of spaces, movement and circulation. By merging the historical forms of the Square into a new design, both visitors and local residents will have the opportunity to learn and experience the Square in a way that is rich with meaning, and uniquely Spartanburg.
๏ Concept 2 – Celebrating the Landscape The physiography of the City of Spartanburg is integral to the significant legacy of industry that was built around the network of streams and falls in the Upstate. Morgan Square represented the heart of thriving commerce and social life that grew out of these industries. With the transition of Spartanburg’s blueways and greenways from industrial use to their restoration for public use, the Square now represents the opportunity to celebrate this unique landscape and its enduring role.
๏ Concept 3 – Hub City Coming Together Morgan Square has been the center of commerce and public life in Spartanburg for centuries. Now moving into its third century, the Square has the opportunity to recapture its role as a thriving hub of daily business activity and community events. Based on the strong desire of the Spartanburg community to make the Square more accessible and welcoming for people, this design concept is organized around the safe and comfortable movement of pedestrians into the Square and the provision of spaces for daily activity and enjoyment.
Folks who weren't able to make it out to the workshop but still want to share their thoughts on the design concepts can do so by following this link to take a short survey.
A final decision on the ultimate design of Morgan Square is still weeks away. The City, the Morgan Square redesign committee and the City’s consultants will take the more than 100 feedback cards that people filled out Tuesday night and use that to refine and narrow down the three concepts into one proposal. City Council will make the final decision on the ultimate design. There will be additional opportunities for the public to weigh in on the designs that we will share in the coming weeks. And, as always, we’ll be here to keep you up-to-date as this historic process moves forward.