Building height limits in downtown Greenville, SC

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Photo by @vanzeppelinaerial

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Are there building height limits in downtown Greenville?

The short answer — kind of yes, but also not technically.

What? Let us explain. 

When we reached out to the City of Greenville regarding this question, they shared with us that in the C-4, Central Business District, there is no maximum height limit provided by the Land Management Ordinance. However, any and all projects in this district have to be reviewed + approved by the Design Review Board — Urban Panel. The DRB uses the Downtown Design Guidelines to evaluate these projects.

What do the Downtown Design Guidelines say, then?

Guideline PRI 2.1 reads “A building’s mass, scale, form, floor-to-floor height and horizontal alignment should not be in stark contrast to its surrounding context. Surrounding context should include all buildings located within one block of the proposed development.” 

So, for example, according to Beth Brotherton from the City of Greenville, “…if an applicant proposed a 20-story building on a downtown block where only 2-story structures existed, the Board may interpret that the proposed building is not compliant to this guideline.”

Then, guideline PRI 2.3 reads, “At the street wall, new construction and additions should maintain the historic scale of two to five stories in height or a maximum of 50 feet.” 

Beth then told us, “To achieve this guideline, projects should include a ‘step-back’ or ‘tiered’ structure. A recent example of guidelines being utilized in downtown Greenville is the new Camperdown office building. It uses two step-backs along South Main Street to preserve the pedestrian-oriented and historic scale of five stories along the sidewalk.”

So, technically there is no explicitly defined maximum height limit, but the city has design guidelines in place to make sure that new projects appropriately account for their surroundings.

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