Increased traffic in areas like Haywood Road is one noticeable sign of Greenville’s recent growth. Will Crooks/Greenville Journal

Greenville has fallen on the nation’s fastest-growing-city list, but Mayor Knox White said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I’m glad to see the era of hypergrowth is slowing,” White said. “What we need is steady, moderate growth. It’s good it is being tapped down a bit.”

Greenville’s population grew 1.9 percent from July 2016 to July 2017, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimate. While that rate still put Greenville ahead of four-fifths of the nation’s cities with populations of 50,000 or more, it’s significantly less than the 5.8 percent growth the city saw in 2016.

Since the last official census in 2010, the city’s population has swelled by nearly 17 percent, or just under 10,000 residents. During the same time, Greenville County’s population has swelled to more than 500,000 from just over 450,000.

The growth has presented challenges — for residents who find themselves driving on traffic-choked roads to governments that have to deal with inadequate infrastructure and louder complaints from residents.

Desired destination

Greenville’s appearance on several “best of” lists over the past few years prompted Susan McCormick to stop on her way to Atlanta from New York last year. She was looking for a place to call home after she retired. Now, she’s looking for a place to call home here.

“I guess I’m part of the problem, or soon will be,” she said during a stop in Falls Park. “Greenville has a charm that I hadn’t seen in other cities. I just hope that people continuing to move here doesn’t mess it up.”

When she does move, she’ll become part of the trend that shows that people moving in are behind much of the population growth of Greenville, the region, and South Carolina as a whole. The Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metropolitan statistical area showed an 8.7 percent population increase, or 71,693 residents, from 2010 to 2017. Natural growth — births minus deaths — accounted for about one-quarter of the additional residents. The rest moved from somewhere else.

“There’s no magic gate to keep people out,” White said.

Greenville isn’t the only municipality that’s growing. All five of the other cities in the county have shown growth since the last census, including Greer, where the population has soared more than 21 percent since 2010.

Greenville Councilwoman Jil Littlejohn said the city’s growth has made it even more important to concentrate on affordable housing, something that has been a push since a 2016 study found that the city is short more than 2,500 units.

“We need to make sure there’s a space and place in the city of Greenville for everyone,” she said. “We won’t be able to meet the economic changes and demand for jobs without having housing that’s affordable and inclusive.”

Keeping up

Managing growth and all that goes with it has challenged local governments.

White said that includes adding green space — the biggest example of which is Unity Park, the 60-acre multimillion-dollar signature park that will be built west of downtown on the former site of the city’s public works complex — and intentional development in the city’s corridors to protect neighborhoods from commercial creep.

While both a proposed (and ultimately not built) Chick-fil-A restaurant on Augusta Street and a neighborhood’s successful battle to keep Walmart from building a smaller store on Church Street where apartments were ultimately built garnered headlines, White said the city has turned away other developments it thought would negatively impact neighborhoods.

“We say no to projects all the time,” he said. “There have been fast-food restaurants proposed for Augusta.”

The city is trying to address traffic on another commercial corridor, Woodruff Road, which was transformed from mostly underdeveloped land into one of the area’s busiest retail strips when it was not a part of the city limits.

“We’re building our own bypass,” White said. “That’s another good example of being as creative as we can within our limited means.”

The bypass White spoke of is the PNG Connector, a two-lane road from Woodruff Industrial Lane to Verdae Boulevard that will give drivers a way to get to popular destinations on Woodruff Road without having to actually get on Woodruff. Piedmont Natural Gas, which has a facility behind Target, told city officials it planned to build a private road to get its trucks out of its facility, and the utility asked if the city wanted to make it public and connect it with Ketron Court and Green Heron Road. That will allow drivers to take Verdae Boulevard to the connector to get to Magnolia Park, where Costco and Cabela’s are located, and the shopping centers that contain Target, Academy Sports, Home Depot, and Trader Joe’s.

“Focusing on balanced growth will help differentiate us from other fast-growing cities,” White said.

Not just the city

Talk about growth isn’t limited to the city, however.

The Greenville County Council recently nixed plans for a $50 million, 180-home subdivision in the Five Forks area near Simpsonville after residents voiced concern that the area’s roads could not handle the added traffic. Earlier this spring, County Council discussed possible future impact fees and a road sales tax as ways to deal with infrastructure needs caused by growth, which is equal to 22 people moving into the county every day.

Greenville’s Growth – By the Numbers 

1.9 percent
City of Greenville’s population increase from July 2016 to July 2017

8.7 percent
Population change in the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metropolitan statistical area from 2010 to 2017

12.3 percent
Greenville County’s population growth since 2010

16.8 percent
City of Greenville’s population growth from 2010 to 2017

21.1 percent
Greer’s population growth since the 2010 Census

Greenville’s estimated 2017 population

Where Greenville ranked in population increase in 2017 among the nation’s 758 cities with 50,000 or more residents

Greenville County’s estimated 2017 population

South Carolina’s estimated 2017 population

27.8 percent
Percentage Mount Pleasant’s population grew from 2010 to 2017, making it South Carolina’s fastest-growing city

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey)

Fastest-growing large cities (between July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017) Percentage increase 2017 population
1. Frisco, Texas 8.2 177,286
2. New Braunfels, Texas 8 79,152
3. Pflugerville, Texas 6.5 63,359
4. Ankeny, Iowa 6.4 62,416
5. Buckeye, Ariz. 5.9 68,453
6. Georgetown, Texas 5.4 70,685
7. Castle Rock, Colo. 5.1 62,276
8. Franklin, Tenn. 4.9 78,321
9. McKinney, Texas 4.8 181,330
10. Meridian, Idaho 4.7 99,926
11. Flower Mound, Texas 4.3 76,681
12. Bend, Ore. 4.3 94,520
13. Cedar Park, Texas 4.2 75,704
14. Doral, Fla. 4.2 61,130
15. Fort Myers, Fla. 4.2 79,943
102. Greenville 1.9 68,219
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