New guidelines should give DRB more direction

Public will get first look at proposal in February

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Greenville’s new downtown design guidelines should provide members of the city’s Design Review Board more direction when they are making decisions on whether to approve proposed developments in downtown and the West End.

“One thing the DRB has asked for is more specific guidelines,” said Mary Douglas Hirsch, downtown manager in the city’s economic development department. “It’s not that our design guidelines are bad. They just needed to be tweaked to show how we are changing and where we’re going as a city.”

The DRB last month approved a certificate of appropriateness for a proposed office building along the banks of the Reedy River at the edge of Falls Park that has fueled intense opposition from environmental groups that say the project is too close to the river, garden club members who say the building would hurt the park’s tranquility and citizens who don’t want construction that close to the Main Street bridge. The city and Centennial American Properties, the developer who is also handling the redevelopment of the nearby Greenville News site, are now in negotiations for a possible deal for the land where the building was proposed.

Mayor Knox White said the new guidelines, which the city was working to revise before the controversial building on the river was proposed, should make it clear that protection of public space is within the DRB’s jurisdiction, not just architecture.

“They have to be the guardians of the downtown urban plan,” White said.

The city’s guidelines were written in 2000. Since they were written, Greenville’s downtown has grown with development in the West End shifting the center of downtown west, and there are new trends and aesthetics. The city hired Design Workshop, an Austin, Texas-based landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm, to rewrite the guidelines. The company is writing the guidelines now.

A draft of the new guidelines should be available for residents, architects and developers to see in February, said Hirsch.

The guidelines, which include such items as building mass and scale, building materials and architectural character, streetscape design, parking and signage, likely will emphasize protection and enhancement of downtown Greenville’s natural assets and providing a pleasant and diverse pedestrian experience, the top two priorities downtown residents, workers and visitors identified in an October survey.

As a part of the project, the consultants will create a virtual 3-D model to allow the city and the public to visualize the impact of projects and recommendations

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