Mayor sees revitalized RR Corner as important for students
Mar 06, 2021
Mayor Michael Butler via Zoom on Jan. 26.
Decisions are being made to move the City of Orangeburg forward, Mayor Michael Butler said.
On Jan. 26 Claflin reporters interviewed Butler, Orangeburg mayor of eight years, via Zoom to discuss city plans. He said revitalizing the downtown area will have a positive impact on the city.
“We are going to beautify our city and spark economic development,” Butler said.
Railroad Corner is a top priority for the mayor. He addressed it as “my baby” when he spoke of his plans for the property.
Railroad Corner is located between Orangeburg’s downtown core and the two universities, Claflin and South Carolina State.
The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) is running point on this operation, Butler said. With input from university presidents, students and the community, the city is studying the best way to utilize the area.
“It should be student-friendly,” Butler said. He hopes Railroad Corner will be to Claflin and South Carolina State what Five Points in Columbia is to the University of South Carolina.
Butler listed clothing and grocery stores, restaurants and housing as potential initiatives for infrastructure growth.
He said a pedestrian bridge from the universities that would allow for accessibility over the railroad tracks to Railroad Corner remains a priority.
With these changes, Butler hopes to retain students in Orangeburg. “We really need their expertise.”
He said employment, competitive salaries, night life and affordable housing are key ingredients in achieving this goal.
Butler cited the hiring of a new manager, saying he “understands the Orangeburg dynamic" and can further the improvement process.
Annexation is also a named priority. “We are going to get back on the track of that,” Butler said.
The city’s issue with population is many people in Greater Orangeburg live outside the limits. "We need more people in the city to move forward,” Butler said.
Butler cited the redevelopment of the historic All-Star Triangle bowl on Russell Street, saying the “project is ongoing.” The bowling alley will also function as social justice center.
The bowling alley was the focus of desegregation rallies that resulted in the Orangeburg Massacre, the 1968 incident in which student protesters were shot by state troopers. Three students died and 28 were injured.
They want to “commemorate the history,” Butler said. "A lot of people know Orangeburg through the massacre.”
The Confederate memorial statue is another issue.
City Council has voted to move the statue from the downtown Memorial Plaza. “We understand the trend of the country,” Butler said.
Council supports moving the monument, but it is not owned by the city, Butler said. It belongs to the Daughters of Confederacy.
Butler said the city will be working with the organization to find a “final resting place” in a Confederate cemetery near the Orangeburg Historical Society building.
Council was “advised by its attorney to wait on the legislature,” Butler said. Some lawmakers want changes in the Heritage Act, which requires approval of the General Assembly to make changes to Confederate monuments.
“If the Heritage Act was changed, then the monument would be moved,” Butler said.
Other points made by the mayor:
- The city implemented a mask ordinance. There is a $25 fine up to $100 for violations.
- “If people are not compliant, call Public Safety.”
- The city gym will be used as vaccinate site and will operate on first-come, first-served basis.
- Voter drives seek to get students to vote locally.
- Students accounted for 30% of votes in the presidential election.
- Students can register to vote locally through City Council and the universities.