Given its sheer size and location, the redevelopment of County Square is one of the biggest â€” and the most important â€” developments in Greenvilleâ€™s recent history.
â€śSometimes, when you have a small piece of land and it doesnâ€™t work out as intended, you can overcome that. With bigger sites, if you donâ€™t get it right, thereâ€™s a lot more at stake,â€ť said Nancy Whitworth, the City of Greenvilleâ€™s deputy city manager. â€śWith this site and its sensitivity to the park and downtown, itâ€™s critical to get this one right.â€ť
The county-owned property is more than 37 acres, equivalent in size to downtown Greenvilleâ€™s core, and located within walking distance of Falls Park, Fluor Field, and the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Its redevelopment is expected to be a billion-dollar, decade-long project. By comparison, Camperdown, the redevelopment of a block of South Main Street across from the Peace Center, has a $200 million price tag and ONE, the mixed-use development at the corner of North Main and Washington streets, cost $100 million. Initial estimates put Verdae, the master planned urban community on Verdae Boulevard and Laurens Road on land once owned by the late reclusive textile magnate John D. Hollingsworth, at 1,100 acres and $1.5 billion when completed.
â€śThere are a lot of moving parts, and weâ€™ve got to make sure to get it right,â€ť said Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven. â€śWeâ€™ve got the team to do that.â€ť
Two decades ago, County Square was not thought of as a part of Greenvilleâ€™s downtown. But Falls Park opened in 2004 and Fluor Field two years later. In between, planning started for the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile multiuse trail that opened in 2009.
â€śNow, itâ€™s intricately linked,â€ť Whitworth said.
Because the former mall that now houses county operations will be torn down, the developer and the county have a wonderful opportunity to design from the ground up, said Barry Nocks, professor emeritus of city and regional planning at Clemson University and former member of the cityâ€™s planning commission and Design Review Board.
â€śIn a way, it could make a new town area,â€ť he said. â€śThey have the opportunity to be creative and efficient, and make it an important part of Greenville. With Main Street and the West End, it could create a triangle of activity.â€ť
Traffic will be a challenge, Nocks said.
â€śAny time you double or triple the density of activities, itâ€™s going to strain existing capacities,â€ť he said. â€śTheyâ€™ll have to have other ways to get there so you donâ€™t have to get in a car. Theyâ€™ll need to think carefully about the back streets. They need to make it attractive and feasible to walk with site lines and well-defined walking routes.â€ť
Whitworth, who said the city hasnâ€™t had discussions with the developer, said the city will be interested in how the developmentâ€™s design will minimize impacts on traffic. The city will also look at other elements like parking, green space, and how trash is picked up. The development will likely require a zoning change, she said.
â€śCounty Square is a 360-degree site. It faces Church Street, the park, the Governorâ€™s School, and Haynie-Sirrine,â€ť she said. â€śThereâ€™s no opportunity to back-door anything.â€ť
Kirven said County Square is more than an extension of downtown.
â€śItâ€™s a test bed to demonstrate how the future looks in an urban environment,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s a clean slate where we can design and create a smart urban environment for the future. This is going to be evolutionary.