Ever heard of killing three birds with one stone? A proposed downtown development along the Reedy River will address three major needs: a new home for the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery, more gallery space for the Greenville County Museum of Art, and a walkable, larger-scale civic event center.
If the to-be-named project moves forward, it would be the first venue of its kind and the first part of a broader mixed-use development between River St. + Academy St. The full development would include retail, residential, and office space, a parking garage, and a 250-room Embassy Suites hotel connected via sky bridge to the current Embassy Suites on the Reedy. Whew. Let us catch our breath.
The entire project’s prospective area (click here to see on Google Maps) is being called “the last developable piece of land along the Reedy River” in GVL’s Central Business District. 6.7-acres of privately-owned land along River St. would eventually be used for the larger mixed-use project (which the event and museum space will anchor).
Here’s a breakdown of each element of the arts and cultural center:
- The conference center would span ~68,000 sq ft. (for comparison, that’s about half the size of a typical Target), with a 25,000 sq. ft. ballroom, “jewel box” building feature, and exterior public gathering space that would front the Reedy. The event space could host an estimated 620 events each year. Here’s what this means for the Greenville Convention Center.
- The Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery needs a more central, accessible location – after all, it does have one of the largest collections of European Old Master paintings in America (think Botticelli, Rubens, and van Dyck). The Museum & Gallery has been looking for a new home for its renowned collection after its 35,000 sq. ft. museum on the BJU campus closed for repairs in 2017, and got involved in the project when it heard about the potential for a walkable downtown location (with 60,000 sq. ft. of space).
- The Greenville County Museum of Art can only display about 5% of its collection at any given time. The new downtown space would nearly double its exhibit space, bringing the museum 25,000 more sq. ft. to show off works by artists like Andrew Wyeth, David Drake + Jasper Johns, which have previously been in storage.
So… who’s funding all this? The event center + art museums will cost ~$100 million, and will need a $26 million stake each from the city, county, and state (none of the three have officially approved those funds). Mayor Knox White says city funding could be contributed through a bond, to be repaid with tourism taxes.
$5 million has been approved already in the S.C. House budget, and Knox White and County Council Chairman Butch Kirven have written letters to the state in support of the project. Eventually, the full mixed-use project could lead to $300+ million in private investment.
Developers discussed the project yesterday afternoon with Greenville County Council, and county voting on the development is expected within the next two months. If funding is approved, the project would be complete by 2022.