Cursed. Snake bit. Greenville’s Bermuda Triangle.
These are just a few of the terms applied to the site of the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium, a forlorn triangle of land near the Bon Secours Wellness Arena and sitting at the gateway to Greenville’s downtown heart.
But those names may soon fade into memory with the unveiling of plans to transform the site into the anchor of an emergent arts and entertainment district that promises to ignite investment along the whole of the city’s Gateway corridor.
Miami-based NR Investments revealed this week plans for the property that local leaders hope will kick off a new chapter in Greenville’s growth.
Gateway’s ‘Gracie Plaza at the Arena District’ unveiled
NRI has dubbed the new Gateway project as Gracie Plaza at the Arena District: where the community meets, according to founding partner Nir Shoshani.
The project will feature two interconnected towers — one at 16 stories and the other at 7 stories — and offer 294 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space. The towers will be anchored by a central public plaza accessible from N. Church Street and Beattie Place and will be designed to be a community hub that will feature frequent events aimed at energizing the Gateway District.
NRI closed on the property March 9 and is scheduled to present plans to the city’s Design Review Board at its April 6 meeting. NRI has been working with Greenville’s Johnson Design Group for more than a year on the project.
The property has languished for decades following the demolition of the auditorium in 1997. The inadequate “Little Brown Box,” as many locals called it, sat on a key triangle of property at the doorway to the city’s central business district, but the challenges of redeveloping the site seemed to doom each attempt at renewal.
But according to Shoshani, those very challenges were part of what attracted him and his team to tackle the project.
“The company feels very comfortable with challenges,” Shoshani said. “This was a unique site (and) not an easy one.”
Greenville Mayor Knox White said Shoshani’s interest in looking at a property with a problematic redevelopment history indicated the NRI team was bringing new perspective and a special skill set to the table.
From derelict to dynamic
Tackling difficult projects is very much in NRI’s DNA, according to Shoshani.
The former Omni district just north of downtown Miami was a blighted, largely depopulated and derelict section of town with no sense of community and no sense of a present or future, Shoshani explained.
But the NRI team saw opportunity and a litany of assets like a central location, proximity to growing and dynamic neighborhoods, and good transportation infrastructure. Those attributes were ripe for the type of project that would draw all the pieces together and resurrect a key portion of Miami’s landscape.
And so the Miami Arts + Entertainment District was born, transforming a cultural desert into a vibrant community that has become one of the premier destinations in the region.
Shoshani said this is the vision for the Gateway project — to take a property that has been an unremarkable waypoint people pass on their way somewhere else and transform it into a destination in and of itself.
The project promises to inject new life into an emerging entertainment district and spark new projects all along the Gateway corridor, according to Beth Paul, general manager of Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Watch: Miami Arts + Entertainment District – creating a community
“This project will spur the Greenville Arena District to consider many options for the future of the BSWA Campus,” Paul said. “I’m impressed by NR Investments’ efforts to understand the importance of the location, and its potential for the district.”
The mayor concurs the project will serve as a crucial catalyst for further development in the area that will see it blossom into an entertainment destination.
“This will light the match,” White said. “This will become the place people will want to go to before an event and stay afterward.”
What’s in a name?
Gracie Plaza at the Arena District.
This is the new name chosen for NR Investment’s project to bring new life to the old Memorial Auditorium property and reflects the welcome and enthusiasm the company found in coming to Greenville, according to founding partner Nir Shoshani.
“You can’t do this (type of project) without grace,” he said. “We believe there is no better word to refer to Greenville in the sense of generosity and kindness. That is what we received from everyone we met.”