On Nov. 8, the Greenville Downtown Master Plan design charrette (an intensive period of design and planning with community input) wrapped up with a presentation from Urban Design Associates, the Pittsburgh-based firm helping imagine the future of Greenville.
It wasn’t all “walkability” and “smart growth” – the designers made specific recommendations, referenced inspirations from other cities, and revealed drawings of what they see for downtown. We took notes on the biggest ideas + highlights from the presentation, and believe us, there’s a lot to take in.
Designers from Urban Design Associates (UDA) have made several trips to GVL + spent time studying the area’s hard data (economic numbers, population growth) and soft data (like interviews with locals). The purpose of the charrette was to connect with the community, take in feedback, and make sure they’re on the right track.
They’ve observed that we’re a vintage town transformed into a modern city… in a very short time period.
How do you create a backbone of economic support for a fast-growing downtown? A large resident population.
The designers know it seems like new downtown condos + apartment buildings are popping up every day, but without a large number of residents, it’s hard to maintain commercial industry and services. UDA projects that a population growth of ~4,600-6,000 higher-income residents by 2028 will create a demand for ~2,400-3,000 new units.
And based on their market analysis, office and business growth is another huge area where we could expand downtown. Developing strategies to encourage offices to open up downtown could be a key way of boosting downtown’s economy.
Like the Innovation District:
We already have a strong technology industry in our area, so how do we make downtown a place offices want to be? Younger generations want to do business in a thriving, dynamic city, and in similar markets to ours, campuses on the outskirts are being drawn to the city center. But that doesn’t have to mean building enormous skyscrapers + towers.
An “Innovation District” on the east side of downtown (behind the new Camperdown development, in blue below) could create an ecosystem of like-minded businesses rooted off Main St.
On the back side of the Innovation District would be the Church St. bridge, which UDA sees as a huge opportunity for a quirky, “must-see” gathering place, especially for visiting professionals. See the inspiration from other cities below on the right:
Expanding the higher education footprint downtown (like Clemson’s MBA program in the ONE building) could also be a strong option for drawing business to the city center.
And on the hot topic of bikeability and creating cooperation between drivers, bikers + walkers, here’s one option inspired by Vancouver, where the photo below was taken:
This bike lane is completely divided from the driving lanes beside it using greenery to distinguish them – a strategy many large cities are embracing.
UDA observed that drivers often use downtown as a channel to get from point A to point B, with various connecting roads all running through downtown. We’ll never be able to diminish the amount of cars, but we need to find ways of adjusting driver behavior as you drive through downtown (like being mindful of bikers and runners). Church, College, Richardson, and Academy are high priorities for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Another huge opportunity is connecting our downtown assets – like Heritage Green, which can feel distant from downtown. Here’s one idea for making our museum + library hub more accessible: making College and North St. two-way.
This idea could make make College an access road, rather than a bypass to get out of town. In other words, you aren’t pushed right past our art museum, music museum, and main library.
Below are examples from other cities that could inspire a new entryway to Heritage Green, with more community gathering space + bigger signifiers of what the area is:
The intersection of Buncombe/Pete Hollis with Stone Ave. could also be totally redesigned (UDA is considering Stone Ave. as basically part of downtown, considering its proximity + traffic flow).
In the photo + art above, the road going left/right is Stone Ave. and the one running up/down is Buncombe (which turns into Pete Hollis at this intersection). UDA advises being proactive about the amount of traffic that passes through this area, and adapt to embrace it with more businesses, restaurants + entertainment.
And Augusta St. at the West End was identified as a place that could develop to become a “funky” and unique, smaller-scale area of downtown. Since the in-progress Gather GVL food hall and new South Carolina Children’s Theatre will both be on that street, it’s a place that could attract a lot of character (as long as it fits the scale of the West End).
That’s a lot to take in, and if you’re wishing you’d been able to share your feedback with the designers, don’t worry. They’ll be back in February, and you can email your comments now to [email protected].
In the meantime, don’t forget to let us know your thoughts at [email protected].
And since not everyone could make it to the presentation, we asked our followers on Instagram what they’d like the designers to keep in mind as the process continues:
“Developing the west end past brick street” – @the8thstatebrewing
“Sans Souci” – @comehometocohasset
“Sharing the space between cars, pedestrians and cycles” – @eiramnizarras
“Parking, for those of us who don’t live downtown but want to enjoy all the new amenities too! 💚” – @localstature
“Historical Character of the city; affordable housing for workers” – @gsollenberger
“Style and size, stick with our heritage of mills with brick iron and nothing super tall! Sky is important!” – @thefeinwoman
“Dog friendly green space” – @essjayfog
“I think Main should become a pedestrian zone. Roll out the sidewalks and just have a trolley lane.” – @johnsellsgreenville
“Parking!!!” – @kcashpittman
“Public transit” – @tifftaffgrrr
“Green space! And public transpo!” – @tashalharrison
“Garage parking” – @stephs321
“Character and authenticity” – @maddieckeller
“Small town feel” – @maressica.baker
“Importance of green spaces.” – @cullen_mann
“Affordable housing” – @alanagattisbell
“Clear signage for parking as people come in from outside the city.” – @sippin_on_ginandjuice
“Protect the trees and walkability” – @agentjoester
“Parking” – @jmhoskinson
“I really hope planners keep in mind the massive amount of gentrification that can/does happen” – @stepherann
“More accurate trolley GPS tracking.” – @cryptogryphon
“Please don’t grow it too big! Also, please keep safety as a primary focus!” – @adams4c
“Walkability but also parking!!!!” – @pshay72
“Bikeability and walkability!!!” – @erintierney11
“Clean emissions” – @prather85
“Affordable housing” – @heatheresch
“I hope they remove the height restrictions so we can have a skyscraper.” – @ethan.wt
“More roundabouts with sculptures in the middle!” – @jicholas_nacob
“Affordable housing for Greenville residents who have lived here their entire lives.” – @katiejovann
“FREE PARKING!!! Parking is g’ville biggest problem!!!” – @seoul_girl34
“Growing traffic and population in general” – @cellogal21
“Make Main Street pedestrian only – no vehicles” – @veronica_nttg
“Free convenient parking” – @rettbergmitch
“More parking, less apartments” – @camichellepat
“Keep it a small town feel!!” – @kspear93
“Keeping shops, events, prices, etc accessible to the average people in Greenville.” – @ashley_fonville
“Housing for low income families, Green space, concert venue space” – @sequoiaguy
“No skyscrapers! Keep it quaint. Design should be more in keeping with our history – the new designs are too modern and look awkward. Maintain our historical small town character. Some think Main St. should be trolley only and no cars. If this happens, please think about those who are handicapped and cannot get around well. These people often Uber downtown and are dropped off right in front of their destination. If Main St. had no cars, it would be difficult for them to get to any location on the street. Please keep gentrification in mind and make sure there is affordable housing downtown. Parking!” – Blair B.
“Please consider older adults. Many of the high income residents will be older adults who want to continue to be connected with the community and get easy access to retail and services. Thus…Accessibility, transportation, doctors/medical offices, walk ability to grocery stores and retail, accessible green space, fitness trails which include equipment for older adults, recreation such as pickle ball courts, focus on inter generational activity and spaces, walk ability, etc. Suggest engaging them in the discussion and helping them find meaningful purpose in this project and ultimately in the downtown community.” – Erika W.
“I’m thrilled that the planners of the City of Greenville are consciously designing its future. I believe they value how important aesthetics are, and I continue to be wowed by the beauty of our downtown. Developing human scaled projects, with lots of natural greenery and plantings is key to our signature. Falls Park downtown, plenty of open sky and natural elements enable our continuous complimentary reviews.” – Betty F.