Van Broad: Plans Taking Shape for a New Beginning After Departure From MauldinAug 01, 2022 03:38PM ● By David Dykes
Van Broad leads a discussion among a development group about the different projects happening in Mauldin. During his time as director of Mauldin Economic Development, Broad helped lure numerous city-building projects and developments, including the new City Center, J. Peters Grill and Bar, Courtyard by Marriott, and BridgeWay Station. (Photo provided.)
By L. C. Leach III
It’s been four months since Van Broad left the City of Mauldin as director of economic development.
In that time, both he and the city have been trying to recover – and at this point both have reached the edge of a new beginning.
“It’s been a hard year for me,” said Broad, who stepped down on March 28, not long after the untimely and unexpected death of his wife, June. “I never accomplished anything in this life without my wife. She was and has truly been my inspiration. And we were planning to retire this year anyway. That didn’t work out as we planned … but now I’m hoping to open a new restaurant and start again.”
It took until July 5 for the City Of Mauldin to decide on a replacement for him – and also to name an interim city administrator when Brandon Madden departed shortly after Broad.
But while positions frequently change in city governments from one able person to another, both Mauldin citizens and officials said that they could not simply bring in another Van Broad to replace himself.
“I hated to lose him,” said City Councilman Taft Matney. “Van’s contribution to where Mauldin has come in the last decade has been invaluable. From the day he set foot in City Hall, he made it his business to make sure that business was welcome in Mauldin.”
So welcome, in fact, that the last decade has now put the city in perhaps the prime spot to live, work, relocate, and draw in business and industry of all sizes – something that not so long ago was only in the realm of the possible.
“Van led the effort in bringing on major developments to the city,” said Mauldin Mayor Terry Merritt just before Broad’s departure. “His ability to interpret City Council’s vision for our City Center along with his all-in spirit has generated a passion for actually moving our projects forward.”
Broad’s arrival in Mauldin in 2015 was both timely and fortuitous.
For the previous two decades, Mauldin had been making many strides – such as building a new library, a new City Hall, and purchasing the original elementary school on East Butler Road for a Cultural Center.
But despite any progress, there always seemed to be an undercurrent of something missing to really push the city forward in ways that previous mayors and council members had long discussed and envisioned.
Seeing the need for a community development director, the city hired Broad away from Fountain Inn – where he had served the previous eight years in community development.
Councilwoman Carol King said that almost from day one, she knew Broad was “exactly who we needed in this position.”
“And it wasn’t so much about the position as the person,” said King, who began her first term a few months after Broad’s arrival. “Van had the right blend of vision, personality, and enthusiasm to sell all the best qualities about Mauldin to almost anyone. He was the missing ingredient that has helped get us where we are now.”
Mayor Merritt added that Broad’s passion for moving Mauldin forward made it easier to convince business owners to “come to the city.”
“Van demonstrated a passion for keeping our local leadership focused with a willingness to improve the area,” Merritt said. “And his efforts attracted many investments to our city.”
Several notable examples include:
BridgeWay Station. It started out as a small dream that, ironically, was spurred by a delay of more than three decades, and culminated with a conversation between two people who did not know each other.
But when Van Broad first met local developer Phil Hughes to talk about how a piece of land known as Centerpointe could best be put to use for both Mauldin and the Upstate, Hughes saw that the potential for the long-stalled development had far exceeded what he had originally conceived.
Now encompassing 170 acres, a total build-out price tag of more than $150 million, and progressing in multiple phases as the Upstate’s first-ever town center, BridgeWay Station has come together in ways that Phil Hughes said would not have happened without the support of Broad.
“It took a long time to make the idea of BridgeWay Station happen, Hughes said. “But it was Van who sparked the fire for it and got the ball rolling.”
City Center. Now 10-12 years in the making, Mauldin was close to having a City Center a few times, but nothing actually happened until a meeting took place between Broad and local developer Drew Parker.
“It began as a cold call to me from Van, who said with no pretenses that the site for the City Center would be a difficult build, and carry lots of challenges,” said Parker, founder and principal of the Parker Group. “But he also said it would be a great opportunity because so many people in Mauldin were all pulling together to make this Center happen. And once Van and I met and he showed me the site and I could see his passion for the project, I was on board all the way.”
Now, the $25 million project will be built out in three phases over much of 2022, and is expected to go a long way toward making Mauldin not only into a walkable urban center, but as the premier center of the Upstate.
“And it was Van’s efforts that really helped make this happen,” Parker said.
Millport. Announced in the summer of 2017, Courtyard by Marriott made plans to build a new $18 million, 108-room hotel on 2.2 acres of land in Millport Circle, just off I-385 at Butler Road.
The announcement came several months after BB&T/Truist made plans to build a 140,000 square-foot Mortgage Center in Millport Circle and create 600 jobs.
And in late 2018, J. Peters Grill and bar opened in the same area as the hotel and the mortgage center.
And a key step to all three was a first-time meeting between Broad and Millport developer Shaw Resources, whose family business roots go back to 1958.
Upon entering their office, Broad noticed an article that mentioned the family’s journey of religious faith and how it intersects in business.
One conversation later, Broad and the Shaw family shook hands and took the next step to making Millport a prominent business destination with the addition of the hotel, the mortgage center, and the restaurant.
“Van was instrumental in all three of those things,” said Ronnie Shaw, partner/owner with Shaw Resources. “And he was very big in helping Millport develop as it has.”
But Broad’s biggest accomplishment was “connecting the citizens of Mauldin through the Cultural Center.”
This connection involved bringing in the Art Haven School of the Arts, the Mauldin Youth and Kids Theater, the annual Summer Beach Music Series, the Mauldin Farmers Market, and the Pizza Blues Jazz festival.
“We were able to renovate the center’s auditorium for $650,000,” Broad said. “Everywhere you look, someone had a hand in making all of this possible, and for me, this is major achievement number one.”
While city leaders have now filled his former position, Matney said the void left by Broad is probably going to be felt for a long time.
“He has such a personable touch that is just a natural part of him,” Matney said. “It’s an intangible skill that can’t be taught – It just has to exist and Van has it in abundance.”
As for the near and long-term future, Broad said it doesn’t look quite as uncertain as it did just a few short months ago when he “retired, un-retired, and then retired again.
“Long story short, I met some people and we shared some ideas, and now we’re working out a few plans for the restaurant – and hopefully I will have more to say about it soon,” he said.
When asked if he ever at any time wished he had stayed with the City of Mauldin, Broad said no – that despite the tragic circumstance in his own life, it was still the right time to step down.
“We have been blessed in Mauldin to accomplish a great deal and our council has been supportive every step of the way,” he said. “It would be foolish not to add that God has played the big part in giving us favor and opportunity by putting the right people in our paths to accomplish things that only he could do, and that we couldn’t do on our own. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have served Mauldin, and now the opportunity to pursue new interest."