City Council demonstrated its commitment to the revitalization of downtown and its support for planning efforts that will guide future public and private investment by formally adopting the Downtown Strategic Master Plan at Monday’s City Council meeting. The master plan was developed by a multi-disciplinary team led by Urban Design Associates (UDA), an international urban design and architecture firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The project team also included HR&A Advisors (market analysis); Hawkins Partners (landscape architecture/public space design); Thomas & Hutton (civil engineering) and Walker Parking (parking strategy). The study area for the plan included the Central Business District and surrounding sectors. The plan’s objectives were to attract and retain businesses, residents and visitors while ensuring the uniqueness and authenticity of downtown; position downtown for the attraction and retention of a workforce for the new economy and continue the right blend of development and redevelopment.
The City launched the master planning process in June 2018 with an open house to give the public an opportunity to meet the project team and share their ideas and opinions about the future of downtown, including its buildings, streets, park spaces and uses. The consultant team returned to Greenville in November 2018 for a week-long design charrette at the Clemson ONE facility and in May 2019, UDA presented the proposed plan at a public meeting at the Greenville Chamber.
The planning process incorporated many other opportunities for public input and involvement, including an online public survey and multiple meetings with property owners, business owners, residents and other local stakeholders throughout the course of the project. City Council also established a steering committee designed to represent a variety of community interests. Additionally, the Urban Panel of the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission held informal reviews of the proposed plan on August 1 and August 15, respectively.
“Since the beginning of the process, we have engaged as many stakeholders as possible—with public meetings, community gatherings and surveys,” said Mayor Knox White. “Our intention has always been to make this process inclusive, and reflective of everyone in our community and their vision for the future of Greenville.”
Overall, the Downtown Strategic Master Plan provides the City with a roadmap for downtown’s future development and investment priorities, including:
- Affordable housing
- Transportation options
- Attraction and retention of employment and entrepreneurship
- Employee parking
- Mix of retail
- Affordable retail rents
- Multi-modal pathways
Recommendations include implementing the following coordinated set of initiatives to revive downtown’s economic engine:
- Downtown business attraction initiative
- Anchor project for the hospitality sector (such as the proposed downtown event center)
- Affordable housing strategies
- Downtown street redevelopment strategy
The plan also discusses the need to improve the downtown street network to increase mobility and calls for urban design changes and programming in four key locations:
- East Downtown (area east of Main Street to the Reedy River)
- Augusta Street and South Downtown (County Square property, West End and parts of the Haynie-Sirrine neighborhood)
- Buncombe Road Corridor
- Unity Park
According to the plan, with continued investment, the City can expect the following in the greater downtown area by 2028:
- 4,600 - 6,000 new residents
- 2,400 - 3,000 additional residential units
- 860,000 - 1.2 million square feet of office space
- 360,000 square feet of new retail space
- 700 more hotel rooms
Finally, the plan recommends that the City expand its urban design toolkit, which includes the development of a form-based code approach for downtown, the addition of art and creative maker spaces and the addition of diverse music programming and live music venues.
Next steps include the development of an implementation strategy for the plan. “Greenville has always been good at planning—in fact, it is that commitment that has led to our walkable, people-focused downtown,” said Mayor White. “We will continue to be intentional with our growth so that we can maintain the charm and wonderful quality of life we have here.”