City unveils new downtown development guidelines

Aerial shot of downtown Greenville // Chris Brank Films

Greenville’s current downtown design guidelines were written in 2000, before development exploded beyond its traditional Main Street core into the West End and West Greenville, which have their own building character. That explosion has produced conflict between growth and preserving downtown’s historic character. This week, the city will unveil its new design guidelines.

The proposed guidelines, written after public input in October, will be available for public review in a series of meetings Tuesday at the Aloft hotel in downtown Greenville. A public workshop is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Separate meetings will be held for architects, developers, and members of the Design Review Board and the city Planning Commission.

The six-principled guidelines include a downtown that is walkable and connected, human-scaled, green, and active with building and site designs that are adaptable to changes in market needs. “Facades and access points that permanently prioritize the needs of tenant space programs, which may limit entry and visibility from adjoining sidewalks and open spaces, should be discouraged.

The general guidelines describe the desired outcome for public and private realm development. A project may have additional assessments based on location.

For instance, a section about block patterns created by streets and alleys says blocks between 300 and 500 feet are encouraged with the perimeter of a block totaling no more than 1,600 feet. For irregular parcel shapes, the guidelines call for a block’s perimeter to be no more than 2,400 feet. Large parcels should locate a street, alley, or pedestrian cut-through in between buildings to reflect the 300 to 500 foot block pattern.

In a section about street furnishings, general guidelines call for 50 percent of benches and other seating to be in areas that receive midday shade.

A section about massing, the proposed guidelines says that a building’s mass, scale, and floor-to-floor height should not be in stark contrast to its surrounding context and that if a building must be significantly taller than the buildings surrounding it, the continuity of the street wall should be preserved by stepping back its upper floors a minimum of 20 feet from the front façade line.

In the West End Historic District, the guidelines call for new construction and additions which should maintain the historic scale of one-to three-stories in height at the street wall. At the edges of the central business district, the proposed guidelines say new construction within a 300-foot radius of a single-family home should be within five feet of the average height of neighboring buildings.

Proposed developments would also undergo a two-step review process under new draft downtown design guidelines that will be revealed to the public during a series of meetings Tuesday.

Under the proposal, the city’s Design Review Board would first review major site plan pieces such as building placement, parking, open space, and the project’s relationship with the public realm for projects in an expanded downtown area. A second DRB review would encompass details such as architecture and building materials.



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