Originally published Feb. 23, 2023.
There are a number of superlatives that can be applied to Greenville County’s new administrative complex, the flagship and anchor of a $1 billion redevelopment that will completely transform the promontory known as University Ridge.
The $65 million project is big and bold and will soon be home to more than 500 county employees who will be at the epicenter of one of the state’s largest economic-development projects in decades.
The new County Square is a world-class structure, according to County Administrator Joe Kernell, in no small part because it was designed by British architectural powerhouse Foster and Partners. This is the same firm behind the design of Apple’s iconic headquarters in California and, more recently, the Global Home of the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
In order for the redevelopment of about 37 of the nearly 40 acres the county owns at University Ridge to proceed, the county’s administration needed to “get out of the way,” Kernell said.
The existing administrative building started life as a shopping center and is decades old. With mounting maintenance and repair costs, the building had served its purpose. Once county offices are moved into the new buildings, which is expected in March, the old building and attendant parking lot will be demolished.
Kernell said this will allow the next stages of the redevelopment to begin.
The complete build out of the project could take as long as a decade and involves more than a dozen buildings that will include restaurants, retail, Class-A office space and a mix of multifamily housing.
The developer, RocaPoint Partners, plans to build more than 3 million square feet of mixed-use space that will also include a hotel and grocery store.
As for the new county offices, Kernell said the design’s use of natural light through a profusion of windows is meant to convey a sense of transparency and that the county “is open for business.”
The south building will house most of the county’s public-facing departments like the assessor’s office, public works, and both magistrate and probate courts, among others.
Many of the public spaces will have informational kiosks where residents can sign in and access necessary forms to cut down on wait time while conducting their business with the county.
Kernell said the new building and what it represents for the region’s future is something to be proud of and added employees are looking forward to getting into the new building.
Kernell said as excited as he is to get into the new building, he’s even more excited to see what comes next.
Anticipation for the next phases of the project has already expanded well beyond the county administration, according to Mark Farris, president and CEO of the Greenville Area Development Corp.
GADC is the county’s economic-development arm and will soon join county administration in the new buildings. Farris said they’re already starting to get inquiries about the Class-A office space coming in the next phases of the project.
Farris said the new county buildings and broader project represent a new chapter for Greenville County in terms of the pace and types of projects expected. Although much of GADC’s efforts will remain on recruiting manufacturing firms to the area, the organization is devoting more attention and resources to luring corporate headquarters to Greenville.
Farris said the new County Square and surrounding development will help those efforts.
“South Carolina is home to not one Fortune 500 company, and we want to change that,” Farris said.
As a sign that development is about to enter a new phase, he said GADC is beginning to hear discussions about speculative Class-A office projects that may be in the works.
“It’s certainly signaling a transition in our economy,” Farris said.
County Square fast facts
- 250,000 square feet divided between north and south buildings
- 1,050 parking-space garage adjacent to north building
- Will house more than 500 county employees
- South building includes four courtrooms — two magistrate and two probate
Other notable Foster and Partners projects
- 50 Hudson Yards — New York City
- Transamerica Pyramid Center — San Francisco
- Battersea Roof Gardens — London
- The One — Toronto
University Ridge redevelopment by the numbers:
- 37 acres, more than a dozen buildings
- 3.5 million square feet total
- 250,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space
- 1,800 luxury rental homes
- 200 hotel rooms
- Project estimated to create 5,500 jobs