A new office and retail development planned at the edge of Falls Park in downtown Greenville drew concerns from area residents who fear it will disrupt views of the bridge and adversely impact the Reedy River.
But the developer told the city’s Design Review Road he would fine-tune the project to allay public concerns and create a vibrant South Main Street corridor.
Wakefield, Beasley and Associates of Alpharetta, Ga., architect for the project, applied for a certificate of appropriateness from the DRB for an office building at 55 E. Camperdown Way, bounded by Japanese Dogwood Lane, the South Main Street Bridge and the Reedy River.
Bryan Wood, the city’s zoning administrator for planning and development, told the DRB at its Oct. 6 meeting that staff members had a number of issues that “had not been fully developed” and the applicant agreed to defer the matter until the board’s next meeting.
The board still agreed to hear public comments.
Plans call for a four-story, mixed-use building on privately owned land. The building will be at the edge of Falls Park on property that includes the Bowater parking garage and the former Bowater building that now houses the Nexsen Pruet law firm, MGC Law, the Colliers International real estate firm and others.
Two sides of the building will be predominantly glass.
The building will be seen from Falls Park and its facades would be “very visible,” Wood said. As such, the design “should be carefully considered,” he said.
While the massing of the building is appropriate in general, “the overall design lacks cohesiveness, in our opinion,” he said.
Centennial American Properties is the developer. Centennial is also developing the Camperdown project on The Greenville News site on South Main Street.
Brody Glenn, president of Centennial American Properties, told the DRB the project, called the River Building, is part of his company’s effort to create a connection from Main Street into Falls Park.
In addition, it’s not a spec building since he is working with a tenant he hopes to locate there, Glenn said. But no lease has been signed, he said.
“We’re so lucky to have the park that we have,” he said. “We also have a good bit of land in that area that can be redeveloped and help our city grow and become more vibrant.”
He pledged to work with city officials and concerned citizens who have reservations about his plan.
Greenville Mayor Knox White has said the River Building project will be a boost to the underdeveloped Camperdown Way and River Street area.
Concerned residents told the DRB they aren’t opposed to new downtown development, but they don’t like the plan because it is located so close to the bridge and would obstruct the public’s view.
Bob Bainbridge, an East Hillside Drive resident, said he knew the area when it was an industrial wasteland “and what we have now is wonderful.”
In general, the River Building would be a positive addition, “but in my mind it crowds the bridge” and would obstruct the view of one of its arches, he said.
Anna Kate Hipp, a local resident and a member of the Carolina Foothills Garden Club, said the city needs “to think long and hard” about the plan and maintaining the character of Falls Park.
“Consider, carefully, how and what goes in that space,” she said.
Edgar Norris, a lifelong Greenville County resident who lives on Riverplace across from the proposed project, said, “The project is being shoehorned into a very small space that is completely inappropriate for the overall dimension of this community down there.”
He added, “To me, from where I live and what I will see, this looks like a giant solar panel. And the people on the bridge who will be looking at this will be looking back at an entire reflective surface that will look like the Titanic disappearing down into the water, just upside down.”
He urged the project be denied and the city consider repurchasing the property.
DRB members didn’t vote on the project. Board member Mitch Lehde said the building has the ability to be an “amazing gem.”
In response to the concerns, Glenn said he understood how important Falls Park is to the city’s vitality and he was committed “to get this building right.”
He pledged to review the project’s design and look for improvements and to work “hand-in-hand” with city officials to increase the size of Falls Park.
“Hopefully, that will help spread things out a little bit and make Falls Park more active in a bigger space,” Glenn said.