The City of Orangeburg is preparing for the long-awaited revitalization of Railroad Corner.

Developers and city officials are planning to break ground on a new housing and entertainment development by the middle of November, officials say.

The development will include planned student housing for South Carolina State and Claflin universities, an art-themed restaurant, a bookstore that highlights Black authors and a new South Carolina Civil Rights Museum.

Railroad Corner is located at the intersection of Russell, Magnolia and Boulevard streets.

City leaders have long talked about the need to develop Railroad Corner. The area is often touted as a “gateway” into the city.

Over the past four years, the city purchased about 12 properties and 1.5 acres on Railroad Corner to help lock down its plans for revitalization.

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Officials have said the redevelopment could cost a total of $18.2 million, with an anticipated public investment of between $4.5 million and $5 million.

The Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation has secured $250,000 for the Civil Rights Museum and another $700,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding has been awarded for the renovation of the Old State Theatre, where the museum will be housed.

Last month, Orangeburg County and the City of Orangeburg entered into an agreement to establish the museum.

Under the agreement, the city will give the county the properties located at 111 and 115 Boulevard St. – the Theatre and Soda Shop — which the county will help refurbish with $1 million from the capital project sales tax.

The $1 million will primarily go toward refurbishing the buildings. County officials say work at the property could be seen by the end of the year, once design and permitting are done.

Local photographer Cecil Williams is planning to relocate the Cecil Williams South Carolina Civil Rights Museum to Railroad Corner.

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said the new development will be the perfect connection between a modern city and its historic past.

“This is a way to bring everyone together,” Butler said. “With enhancements such as the pedestrian overpass, businesses and student housing, we will be able to offer something for everyone and … encourage economic development in this area.

“I want our residents to know that we have not forgotten about the promises that the City Council has made to develop Railroad Corner.”

The new development will include two, 120-bed buildings to increase student housing for the local universities.

For example, South Carolina State University’s freshmen class was the largest in a decade and the school faces increased enrollment projections into the future.

Plans include the creation of walk-through opportunities with urban and plaza spaces combined with retail. Additional parking will be added on Treadwell Street.

The project will also receive a $22.8 million federal grant to build a pedestrian bridge.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity funds will be used to build a bridge across Magnolia Street and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks.

It will be designed to connect the campuses of the universities to Railroad Corner. In addition to the bridge, the project will include a new public transit stop, charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and bicycles and a public parking garage.

Construction on the bridge is projected to begin in 2024.

A City of Orangeburg press release says the Railroad Corner project will create hundreds of full-time jobs in construction, hospitality and other professions.

The project will also allow students to be directly involved in the construction and operation of the development to enhance their education and employment opportunities, the city said.

Orangeburg City Administrator Sidney Evering said he is proud to support the new development.

“The Railroad Corner Development is immensely important to the City of Orangeburg,” Evering said. “The development will not only serve to meet the needs of our community and universities, but it will also pay homage to our past and serve as a catalyst for future development.”

James McQuilla, president of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, said the project will bring new life to downtown Orangeburg in a spot that has been critical to the Black community.

“Railroad Corner was the place where residents and students would hang out,” McQuilla said. “It was the place where people met at the soda shop and people got their hair cut.

“The new development will continue that tradition and make our city a place where people can stay and make a difference.”

Mike Glenn with Luna Development and Ron Butler, CEO of HBCU CDAC (Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition), are the project developers.

Additionally, Equity Partners of Washington, D.C. will serve as economic development financial advisers to the project. They will oversee the complex financing for the project.

“Railroad Corner offered me a chance to continue my work to redevelop another African American community,” Glenn said. “I have developed similar projects in the Southeast to revitalize other communities, but I am excited about Railroad Corner because of what that site means to Orangeburg.

“It’s an opportunity to respect the past with a project for the future.”

The project is one of many happening downtown.

The county has demolished the old Palmetto Inn and Suites and Winn Dixie grocery store on Russell Street to make way for a new courthouse.

The city is renovating the old First Citizens Bank building on Russell and Broughton streets into a new city hall.

In addition, a local non-profit is raising funds to restore and reopen the historic All-Star Bowling Alley.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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