I want to expand on this cool blog I recently read in UrbanScale by John Karras about some of the things that downtowns can do to be better. Karras broke it down with 12 things, and we decided to see how/if Greenville has done them.
- Turn one-way streets into two-way streets: The idea is two-way streets are more pedestrian friendly. Of course, Main Street Greenville is two way and there are not a lot of one-ways. However, one of them is Elford/Beattie, which is one of the major streets that hem in the Central Business District. Our verdict: Great idea, but no real way it helps Greenville.
- Establish a regularly occurring public event that showcases downtown merchants, music, and food: Greenville is one of the best at this with Downtown Alive dating back to the 1980s. We still do it along with things such as Friday Night Jazz, the Saturday Market and Movie Wednesdays. That doesn’t even include the large festivals such as Fall for Greenville and Artisphere. Our verdict: Score one for Greenville
- Create more land for development (landfill into a body of water, remove land from a floodplain, take back land from a freeway, etc.): Ever been to Falls Park? That is this in a nutshell. Our verdict: Another score for Greenville.
- Make under-utilized public land available for private sector development: This is another Greenville hallmark. Poinsett Corners was one of the first examples when the city put an old underused parking deck up for sale and ended up with one of the first massive condo projects. Our verdict: Greenville does it again.
- Consolidate regional economic development partner organizations into a single downtown location: According to Karras, “It may seem like an inconsequential decision but the location of government offices and community-serving organizations matters. This is even more important for organizations that interact with the outside business world like chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. Of course, public decisions to place jobs downtown are beneficial, but in this case, we’re talking about the image that is portrayed to the outside world.” Our verdict: Ugh, Greenville has not done this. Actually, Greenville’s economic development partners are all over the map.
- Create a permanent public market: Greenville has a semi-permanent farmer’s market that draws people downtown all Spring and Summer. It is part of our dynamic landscape. Our verdict: Greenville doesn’t have this, but I think we have something better.
- Open a downtown satellite campus of a local university: Yes, yes and yes. Colleges have been beating down the doors to downtown for some time led by Clemson’s MBA program. Our verdict: A major score for Greenville.
- Build a streetcar line connecting your downtown to an adjacent urban neighborhood: Ugh. Greenville and mass transit are like trying to get a hamburger at Chick-fil-a. It just doesn’t work. However, Greenville has managed to create a free trolley system that is sort of reaching out into neighborhoods. Our verdict: Like Bon Jovi, ‘wooaah, we’re halfway there.”
- Create an awesome downtown playground to make your downtown more kid-friendly and family-friendly: This is not on Greenville’s radar, but an interesting idea. We have some great natural parks like Falls Park and the possibility of more, but not a big play area. This is an interesting concept. Our verdict: This is a cool idea, and is worth Greenville considering in the future.
- Create a branded downtown entertainment district: A long time ago, this was the plan for parts of West Washington. It never took off. I am of two minds on this. One of the cool things about Greenville is that everything is a great mix. I am not sure I like the idea of a place on Austin’s Sixth Street where only college students go. However, there is something to be said for this. Our verdict: As Greenville’s downtown footprint grows, this may be a need.
- Establish maximum parking standards for new downtown developments, or at least remove minimum parking requirements for new buildings: This one may not even be on our radar in the terms Karras is talking about, but parking is a downtown issue. Our verdict: We got a good parking plan so I think we are doing this.
- Set up a downtown bike share program. We got on this about two years ago as downtown is becoming more and more bike friendly. Our verdict: Another win for Greenville.
So how did Greenville match up? We do seven of these really well. Two we don’t but we have an equivalent that works for now. We have three we can work on.