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downtown revitalization

a history
Once the retail center of the area, Greenville’s downtown began to languish in the 1960s. As shopping centers lured the major retailers to the suburbs, downtown was left with countless vacant buildings and no people. Greenville faced what other cities faced, a dying downtown in the midst of a growing region. To meet the challenge, Greenville embarked on "downtown redevelopment," remaking Main Street and creating an atmosphere conducive to office, residential, specialty retail, entertainment and the arts. Downtown Greenville’s renaissance became an evolutionary process marked with significant achievements over twenty-five years.

The first and most important step in changing downtown’s image (see before photo below left) was the streetscape plan for Main Street. This plan narrowed the street’s four lanes to two and installed free, angled parking, trees, and decorative light fixtures, as well as created parks and plazas throughout downtown. Today, Main Street’s lofty canopy of trees impresses visitors and creates a welcoming backdrop for Main Street activities.

ABOVE: Main Street, before redevelopment.

With the new image in place, Greenville recognized the need for the public sector to step forward to provide the impetus for private investment. The Greenville Commons/
Hyatt Regency project created the City’s first luxury convention hotel located directly on Main Street. Funded through a unique public/private partnership, it became a visible manifestation of Greenville’s faith in the future of downtown. Greenville also understood that a master plan was necessary for the downtown’s revitalization success, and developed, with the help of consultants, the Downtown Master Plan. The new vision stated that "by the year 2000, Greenville will have a thriving downtown which is recognized nationally as an example of a ‘state-of-the-art’ community in which to live, work, and play, and which serves in itself as a national attraction." This statement has been the guide for downtown development ever since, and many of the plan’s proposals have come to fruition in recent years. With the public investment and plan in place, many Main Street buildings began to be renovated and major new office buildings constructed.

LEFT: The Hyatt block before redevelopment work began.

Greenville’s successful alliances with public/private investments and a sustained commitment to a plan led to continued revitalization efforts. Through successful public/private partnerships, Greenville continued to create strong anchors throughout downtown. A languishing industrial area was redeveloped into the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, a performing arts complex that incorporated historically significant buildings with dramatic new architecture and landscaping. The West End Market, a mixed-use project of shops, restaurants and offices was developed to stabilize a stagnant historic district.

The Bi-Lo Center, a 17,000 seat arena, brought a full-scale sports and entertainment venue to the heart of the City. In addition, downtown began a residential renaissance, filling vacant upper stories along Main Street.

Today, previous investments and established public and private relationships have resulted in mixed-use renovations and new construction, major new office buildings, meticulously renovated historic buildings, residential condos in former church classrooms, and a new Governor’s School for the Arts. Now, Greenville is focused on its most noted, but neglected asset, its river. Not settling for an attractive park and waterfall at Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville has embarked on an ambitious $70 million plan for a world-class public garden with a one-of-a-kind pedestrian bridge over a waterfall.
Overall, the downtown’s success may be attributed to a plan and commitment by public and private partners to sustain an environment which creates dynamic opportunities for office, entertainment, dining, residential and retail.

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