Greenville, the county and much of the Upstate have seen explosive growth in 2016.
Cranes rise over Greenville’s skyline in a rapid expansion of multifamily housing for downtown-oriented millennials, young professionals and others drawn in search of an urban lifestyle and celebrated nightlife.
City officials say the year brought record levels of construction and business activity and Greenville continues on an upward trend.
The Reedy River along Main Street is attracting controversial mixed-use development. Corridors like Haywood Road are rebooting. Planned development also is expected to spark new suburban neighborhoods.
The ability to move people in and out, however, remains a key concern among business leaders as state lawmakers wrestle with funding for congested and crumbling roads and a strained highway infrastructure.
These are the top business and development stories of the year.
Reedy River development
The proposed construction of a building near the historic Main Street bridge and Reedy River Falls has once again put the river at the forefront of a discussion of what role it should play in the next phase of downtown’s development. The proposed 55 E. Camperdown Way office building has sparked conversation about how to encourage further development in what is being called downtown’s East Gateway District, while protecting the river that historically has not always been treated kindly.
Wyche P.A., the law firm that overlooks the Reedy River, has agreed to sell its East Camperdown Way property to Orlando, Fla.-based The Kessler Collection, and a new hotel, the Grand Bohemian Greenville, will take its place. Inspired by the look and feel of a national park lodge, Greenville’s Grand Bohemian will add to Kessler’s 11 boutique hotels and restaurants, including Grand Bohemian hotels in Charleston and Asheville. Plans include an art gallery, spa, 4,000-square-foot ballroom, meeting space and a restaurant and bar overlooking the river. Hotel officials say they will break ground in the fall of 2017.
A game of chicken on Augusta Street
When plans for a Chick-fil-A drive-thru off Augusta Street were announced, it quickly drew the ire of nearby residents, who said the restaurant would make the traffic nightmare on a busy thoroughfare worse, create issues with pedestrian and cyclist safety and increase the number of drivers who use residential streets as a cut-through. Residents collected nearly 700 signatures on a petition asking Greenville’s Board of Zoning Appeals to reject the proposal. In the end, the project’s developers pulled the controversial restaurant off the agenda for a special Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
Big business moves to Main Street
Two high-rises have changed hands and a third has a new tenant as major shifts occurred in the downtown commercial real estate market.
An Arkansas-based real estate partnership has bought the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Greenville for $33.25 million. CapRocq purchased the property at South Main and East Washington streets that encompasses most of a city block. It is the company’s first asset owned in Greenville. It also owns assets in Columbia and Charleston.
An ownership group, including Greenville-based RealOp Investments, bought the 15-story Bank of America building in downtown Greenville for about $22.5 million. Seph Wunder, general counsel for RealOp, a commercial real estate investment group, said his firm is the operating partner. The seller was Greenville-based Hughes Development Corp.
In addition, BB&T’s College Street branch will be relocated to the ONE building at 1 N. Main St. in the former CertusBank space. The move is scheduled for the first quarter of 2017. Two BB&T executives, Christian Corts and Jon Chilton, will be based in Greenville and play key roles as the bank pursues its strategy of gaining ground on local and state deposit-share market leaders Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America.
Meanwhile, Duke Food Productions, an industrial food manufacturer of branded and private label brands, is returning to its roots by establishing its company headquarters in downtown Greenville. The offices will take up 12,000 square feet of space on the third and fourth floors of the new Falls Park Place building at 600 S. Main St. The company is moving its headquarters from Easley. The headquarters will be a stone’s throw away from the site where the company’s story began. In 1917, Eugenia Duke began selling her signature spread sandwiches up and down Main Street to local drug stores, textile mills and World War I soldiers stationed at Camp Sevier.
Inland Port celebrates three years
When the $50 million Inland Port was launched in Greer in 2013, officials said it had the potential to handle up to 100,000 containers annually by 2018. But usage by customers, including BMW, Michelin, Adidas, Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical Co. and others, has pushed the inland port to nearly reach that capacity in less than three years. And with more companies ready to join the list of the facility’s users, the ports authority anticipates it will exceed the 100,000-lift threshold during its 2017 fiscal year.
Chambers tells legislature to fix the roads
Upstate business leaders say it’s time to raise South Carolina’s gas tax to fund improvements for the state’s deteriorating roads. That view surfaced in the Upstate Chamber Coalition’s 2017 Legislative Agenda Survey. Just what will be accomplished in the next legislative session, which begins in January, remains to be seen. But area lawmakers and business leaders are optimistic, even as Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster prepares to succeed Gov. Nikki Haley, who’s moving from Columbia to take a job as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.