Hughes Investments

    ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants Initiative

    An annual grant program that provides initial funding for community-based programs that promote vibrancy

    Ten at the Top, through a funding commitment from Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments Inc., has established the Hughes Investments Vibrancy Initiative: ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants. The purpose of the ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants is to identify and provide initial funding support for community-based programs that promote community and economic vibrancy in local areas across the Upstate. For the 2024 grant cycle, the initiative will award three grants of up to $5,000 each (total of $15,000) to entities including neighborhood associations, civic- or community-based organizations, non-profit organizations or local governments that are committed to developing and implementing programs designed to increase local vibrancy in communities within the Upstate. Two of the grants will be awarded using the same format and criteria as in past years. The third grant will be awarded for a project implemented at the new Bridgeway Station development in Mauldin, SC (more details on space and criteria below).


    Applicants must be located in and do their work within one of the ten Upstate counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, or Union. Successful proposals for projects funded by ELEVATE UPSTATE (EU) should be able to clearly demonstrate how the implementation of the initiative that they propose will benefit and provide vibrancy in the local community. These proposals may seek to produce a physical result, such as a mural, sculpture or signage that will increase the vibrancy and sense of place within a community, or implement the first of a reoccurring or annual event or program that helps grow vibrancy within a community. Click the links below for more details about grant parameters and interest form.

    2024 Elevate Upstate Grant Application

    2024 Elevate Upstate Interest Form

    Bridgeway Station opened in Mauldin, SC, in the Spring of 2024. The Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants are providing a dedicated grant of $5,000 for a project that will be hosted or completed at the Bridgeway Station location. A few of the many potential hosting areas include the ~25,000 SF common area piazza and open-air pavilion, rooftop swimming pool and bar, public gardens and playgrounds, or the pedestrian bridge over I-385 connecting the Swamp Rabbit Trail to BridgeWay Station (see images below). This mixed-use project will be the home of 190 apartment units, retail and commercial spaces, and a multitude of food and beverage offerings, all of which will exemplify BridgeWay’s live, work, play, CONNECT mentality. For more information about the space and how to take advantage of this opportunity, contact Rivers Hughes at or 864-242-2100.

    Projected visual of Bridgeway Station.


    On Monday, June 17th, 2024 the application process for the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants officially opens. The deadline for interest forms is on Friday, August 9th, 2024. The deadline for full applications will be Friday, September 20th, 2024.

    Join us for an Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop on July 25 at Bridgeway Station.

    Register here!

    Video: Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop

    View a synopsis of the grant provided by TATT Executive Director Dean Hybl here.

    View an informational PowerPoint presentation on applying for the Elevate Upstate Grant by three-time recipient Jonathan Irick (MSARP, Executive Director) of Main Street Laurens here.

    If you have any questions, contact Dean Hybl at or 864-283-0346.

    2023 Elevate Upstate Grant Finalist Announcement

    The winners of the three $5,000 grants were Downtown Family Movie Night (City of Belton), The Clinton Carnival (United Way of Laurens County), and our BridgeWay Station award winner, Upstate 48-hour film project (Urban League of the Upstate). 

    Downtown Family Movie Night - City of Belton

    Family Movie night will combine family friendly movies and food trucks 4 times during the year to bring local families and families from the surrounding area to downtown Belton. The City of Belton decided to focus on a family event appropriate for all ages to provide vibrancy back to the downtown area. Our past Downtown Sounds have been wonderful and will continue but there were less children attending than we anticipated. We want to offer something specifically tailored to fun for children. Our goal is to bring vibrancy back to downtown Belton and create fond memories of movie nights on the Square in Downtown Belton. Our focus is on children and family fun!


    The Clinton Carnival – United Way of Laurens County (Clinton)

    The Clinton Carnival will be an Annual Event. We would look to have it every year around March, while kids and students would be on Spring Break. We know this will be a tremendous success and popular event! In the county of Laurens, there is no other event like this. This event is to encourage families to come out together and enjoy a fun evening full of games, food, music and much more! This is also for all ages! We are looking to make this event into a fundraising event for United Way. We will charge a fair price for the entry fee. That entry fee will include all the amenities inside excluding the food. The food we will arrange for tickets or meal prices to be made. We believe this event meets the goals it being FUN, enticing & exciting and gives vibrancy to Laurens County!


    Upstate 48 - Hour Film Project - Urban League of the Upstate (Greenville)

    In 2023, the Urban League partnered with the South Carolina Film Commission to bring more filmmaking to the Upstate. As our signature workforce development program, we created Studio 9.22, located at the George Dean Johnson School of Business & Economics. At Studio 9.22 we support creative professionals, independent filmmakers and entrepreneurs who want their businesses camera ready. In partnership with the SC film Commission, SC-ETV and USC-Upstate, Studio 9.22 has recently hosted free classes and certification programs for individuals to be film grips, hairdressers that want bring their skills to directors shooting in South Carolina and our annual SC Film and Entertainment Symposium and Red-Carpet Reception. Here we bring together industry professionals from around the state and the country. Based on the success of our work, and our commitment to making the Upstate the epicenter independent filmmakers, the Urban League is now licensed and part the exclusive society of 48HFP Producers for the state of South Carolina. The 48Hr Film Project is the oldest and the largest timed film competition in the world. It is a highly efficient process with a strong brand within the short film industry. Last year alone, events were in 115 cities. Studio 9.22 will launch the 48Hr Film SC Project in May 2023. We anticipate that over 100 people, forming approximately 20 teams, will create short films in this two-day competition. Films will be judged with a premier showing at a commercial theater. Because Studio 9.22 is now part of the 48HFP international tour, our winning film will be submitted to Filmapalooza, the annual event open to all filmmakers where each city’s winning film is screened and judged. This year’s event will be in Lisbon Portugal. The winners from Filmapalooza will go on to the Short Film Corner in Cannes, during the Cannes Film Festival. With access to a collection of short films, we can easily replicate the premiere showing of the films at Bridgeway Station and other outdoor venues throughout the region.



    The winners of the three $5,000 grants were “I” Marks the Spot Scavenger Hunt (City of Inman), Honea Path’s Got Talent (Town of Honea Path), and BridgeWay Station development (City of Mauldin). 

    "I" Marks the Spot Scavenger Hunt | City of Inman

    “I” Marks the Spot will be a scavenger hunt in the downtown/Historic district of Inman. The vision for this project is to develop an interactive scavenger hunt in downtown Inman. There will be a combination of bronze peach place markers and “vanishing” paint to create an interactive scavenger hunt for people to use to explore downtown and learn about important pieces of Inman history, along with current places of importance.


    Honea Path's Got Talent – Town of Honea Path

    The Honea Path Planning Committee will reinstitute a successful one-time event that happened over 6 years ago: Honea Path’s Got Talent. The Town of Honea Path is under new leadership for the past 3 years and has placed a high priority on revitalizing the downtown by adding and enhancing events that draw tourists from surrounding areas to Honea Path. Honea Path’s Got Talent will be a reinvented 6-week event allowing people of all ages and backgrounds in Honea Path and the surrounding areas to showcase their talent.


    BridgeWay Station – City of Mauldin

    BridgeWay Station will be the first new town center development in the Upstate of South Carolina. With nothing else like it, BridgeWay will attract residents and visitors from all corners of the city, state, region, and beyond. BridgeWay will offer the perfect place to live, work and play in the Upstate, through local community events, local businesses, and amazing eateries. With nothing else like it, Hughes Investments, Inc. and the City of Mauldin hope that BridgeWay will enrich the lives of its residents as well as visitors from all corners of the city, state, region, and beyond. 



    The winners of the two $5,000 grants were Belton’s Downtown Sounds (City of Belton) and Italian-American Festival (Italian American Club of Greater Greenville). Hughes also pledged to give $1000 each to the other three finalists if they followed through with the proposed projects.

    Belton's Downtown Sounds | City of Belton (Belton)

    Downtown Sounds will combine music and food trucks 4 times during the summer of 2022 to bring residents and people from surrounding communities to downtown Belton.  The lively bands and variety of food trucks will create a sense of fun and vibrancy. It will offer an opportunity for people to get out of their houses and enjoy one another’s company in a festive atmosphere. People will have fun with neighbors and have a chance to meet new people and tell them all the remarkable things about their city.

    Italian-American Festival – Italian American Club of Greater Greenville (Simpsonville)

    The project is designed to share and expand the Italian Culture in the Upstate with a one-day Italian Street Festival. The Festival will be held in the town of Fountain Inn on Main Street. It will include food and drink vendors, craft vendors, live music, dancing, and carnival rides. The area will be decorated with appropriate Italian décor to set the tone and atmosphere.


    The winners of the two $5,000 grants  were Rhythm on the River (Powdersville Business Council) and Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival (Main Street Laurens). Hughes also pledged to give $1000 each to the other three finalists if they followed through with the proposed projects.

    Rhythm on the River | Powdersville Business Council

    Rhythm on the River, a community event designed to bring families and businesses together in the Powdersville community, will take place on May 2, 2020, at Dolly Cooper Park with family activities, music, and food trucks. The interactive, festive atmosphere will attract neighborhood, school, and church groups to enjoy good fellowship.

    Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival | Main Street Laurens

    The Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival will be a celebration of the rich past Laurens has with blues, jazz, and even rock music genres. The event will be held in Downtown Laurens on May 9, 2020, and will focus on the traditional piedmont blues music, mill hill blues, and other types of music that have played such an important role in music history. There will even be an opportunity to highlight local record companies and local bands who produced their own records back in the day.




    The two $5,000 recipients are Ninety Six Movie Night at the Park and 1st Annual Charles Townes Art & Technology Experience.  In addition to providing $10,000 to the two winners, Hughes also pledged a matching grant to the Environmental Art Festival in Union.

    Movie Night at the Park | Ninety Six Mill Village Association

    The Ninety Six Mill Village Association (MVNA), in collaboration with the Town of Ninety Six and local residents, is seeking to build a sense of pride in the community by offering a series of free outdoor events to showcase the community park. MVNA is requesting assistance to help fund the purchase of equipment and supplies to host a regular Movie Night at the Park, which stands on the site of a former textile mill.

    1st Annual Charles Townes Arts & Technology Experience

    The 1st Annual Charles Townes Art & Technology Experience intends to generate awareness and gratitude for Charles Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, who was a Greenville native and graduate of Furman University. The project also aims to be a catalyst for the acceptance and encouragement of experimentation and curiosity—in technology as well as the arts—reflecting some of Townes’ ethics.


    The two $5,000 recipients for 2017 are:

    Main Street Laurens USA | Food Truck Plaza:

    Laurens – As a part of a larger Downtown Master Plan for the City of Laurens, the Food Truck Plaza will dedicate space within the city where food trucks will be located for residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of dining experiences. The plaza will include colored shade sails, brick pavers and picnic benches as well as power and water for the food trucks.

    Greenwood Arts Center | Bee smART:

    Greenwood – The City of Greenwood received the Bee City USA award in 2016 and will use the Elevate Upstate Grant to develop educational and interactive art programs designed around the Bee City designation.

    In addition to providing $10,000 ($5,000 per recipient) to the two winners, Hughes also pledged a $2,000 matching grant to each of the three other finalists. The other three finalists were the City of Landrum for their Art of the Horse project, the Abbeville County Farmers Market for their Farm to Fork Dinner and the City of Seneca and Blue Ridge Arts Council for their Art Wall at Monarch Park.


     The two $5,000 recipients for 2016 are:

    Expand Your Wings - Town of West Pelzer

    The Town of West Pelzer is established and declared to be a wild bird sanctuary. “Expand Your Wings” is both an educational venture and an art installation that will allow residents, visitors and passersby to West Pelzer to “Become like a bird, expand your wings, learn new things and fly high as you can.”


    The two $5,000 recipients for 2015 are:

    Celebrate Agriculture:

    Greenwood – The Arts Council of Greenwood County plans to celebrate national farmers market week with several activities: tailored pieces of art to exhibit and family fun day focused on our agricultural heritage, cooking demonstrations, etc. throughout the six week celebration.

    Music at the Museum:

    Greenville – In a partnership between the Children’s Museum of the Upstate and the Furman University Partners in the Arts Program, student and faculty ensembles will perform a series of mini concerts.


    The two $5,000 recipients for 2014 are:

    Let’s Keep Travelers Rest Beautiful – Before I Die Wall

    The ‘Before I Die’ wall concept has been implemented all over the world to encourage healthy discussions regarding dreams and hopes. Travelers Rest will construct several different walls to spark discussion and actions across the community.

    Main Street Laurens – Finally Friday on the Square:

    Finally Friday on the Square will be a monthly celebration of all things Laurens with live music hosted in the historic downtown.

    *Phil Hughes, creator of the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants, was extremely impressed with the all of the finalists that he announced he was donating $1,000 to those finalists projects that were not chosen, including:

    The City of Gaffney – The Unforgettable Gaffney project to create a coherent and engaging system for communicating the esthetic and historic value of properties in two historic districts in the city.

    The City of Clinton – Rhythm of the Rails will be an annual celebration to be held the last Saturday of April as a finale of the Celebrate Clinton Month.

    Pickens Revitalization Association – The Pickens Main Street Challenge is designed to attract new businesses into downtown Pickens by providing reduced rent in currently vacant storefronts.


    The $5,000 recipients for 2013 are:

    City of Anderson

    Transforming utility and traffic signalization boxes and crosswalks into public art based around the book “Little Wren Lost and the Teakettle Call.”

    City of Greer Parks and Recreation

    Greer: An International Festival would be a one-day event in Downtown Greer as part of Upstate International Month.

    Blue Ridge Arts Council

    “3 Part Public Art” project includes murals, custom and hand built street furniture and interactive sculptures in downtown Seneca.*

    *Phil Hughes, creator of the Elevate Upstate Grants, handed out three awards this year due to the impressive amounts of applications received.