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Vision 2020: Development changing face of Greenville

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The former site of Pugh's Tire in downtown Greenville under construction on July 27, 2016. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Shannon Keith

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of reports on a surge of public-private development expected in Greenville by 2020. Coming next Sunday is a report on transportation and infrastructure.

By the end of the decade, an investment of more than $1 billion will change the way people live, work and play in Greenville.

Much of that transformation will be focused on turning Greenville’s downtown district — an area whose heyday passed decades ago — back into a vibrant, modern center. 

Within a few years, Greenville’s warehouse district, a deteriorating area with its roots in the tobacco industry, will be host to multi-story mixed-use residential developments; restaurants, shops and full-production breweries will open for business in downtown storefronts; and a 25-acre park along the Tar River will become a center for recreation with amenities like a playground, splash park and ziplines.

By 2020, local officials said, current residents of the city will have a hard time remembering what Greenville looked like in 2016. 

“People will look at the city in a few years and be amazed at how much Greenville has changed,” City Manager Barbara Lipscomb said. “People will barely recognize the city they are living in today.”

The city, East Carolina University, the N.C. Department of Transportation and private investors will complete more than a dozen major development projects in Greenville’s downtown district by 2020. Several of the projects already are under construction, and more construction is scheduled to begin in the fall.

“There will be so much construction going on that people may at times think the city resembles a war zone,” Lipscomb said. “But I think people will look back on the next few years and remember them as a time of tremendous growth and transformation.”

‘Opportunity and potential’

From 2006-15, more than $100 million was invested in downtown development projects. By 2020, more than $400 million in additional development is scheduled to be completed, Lipscomb said.

Upcoming development projects in the downtown area include:

• Campus-Edge, a $54 million student housing project at 10th and Charles streets. The five-story housing project will accommodate more than 600 residents and includes a multi-story parking deck and 20,000 square feet of retail space in addition to other amenities.

• Sidewalk Development, a $32 million mixed-use development at Dickinson Avenue and Reade Circle. The development will include a 60-unit market-rate apartment complex, a 60-unit student housing project and 20,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space.

• Gather Uptown, a $30 million student and mixed-rate housing project at West Fifth and South Greene streets to be built by California-based Rael Development Corp. Plans called for 120 apartment units and other amenities.

• Greenville Transportation Activity Center, an $8.4 million transportation center on Bonners Lane where people will be able to access Greenville Area Transit, Pitt Area Transit and East Carolina University Transit systems, taxi services, Greyhound buses, shuttles to the Pitt-Greenville Airport and bus service to the Amtrak station in Wilson.

• ECU’s Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building, a $90 million facility that will house the university’s biology and biomedical/bioprocess engineering departments, as well as the Center for Excellence for Pharmaceutical Development Manufacturing.

• ECU’s Student Services Building/One Stop Shop, a $60 million facility on Third and Cotanche streets that will house essential services such as the registrar's office, admissions office and some counseling services. The facility also will be the site of Heritage Hall, an interactive museum-like space that will honor the university's history.

• 10th Street Connector, a $46 million NCDOT project to provide a modern multi-lane connection between East Carolina University and the city’s medical district. The 1.4-mile boulevard will stretch from Memorial Drive over Dickinson Avenue to 10th Street at Evans Street. It will widen symmetrically down Farmville Boulevard before rising over the Dickinson Avenue railroad tracks.

• Town Common Master Plan improvements. The city’s 2016-17 budget allocates about $1.5 million during the next two years for the redevelopment of the acre park. The upgrades include an all-inclusive playground, improved lighting, boat rentals, zip lines and permanent bathrooms.

Lipscomb said the development projects will change the appearance of downtown Greenville, create additional jobs in the city and improve quality of life for the city’s residents.

“For a city of less than 100,000 people, we have an incredible amount of amenities and assets,” Lipscomb said. “Greenville is such a vibrant community with great opportunity and potential.”

‘Prime the pump’

The redevelopment of the downtown district began in 2006, when the city adopted the Center City-West Greenville Revitalization Plan. Assistant City Manager Merrill Flood said city officials started with street, sidewalk and lighting improvements — as well as investing in projects like the $5 million Fourth Street Parking Deck.

The city will spend an additional $12 million along the Dickinson Avenue corridor, which runs through Greenville’s historic warehouse district, to fund the construction of sidewalks, bicycle lanes and crosswalks, and the installation of traffic signals and street lights.

“The private sector will not invest in an area unless the city makes a commitment to the infrastructure,” Flood said. “A city has to prime the pump sometimes to get things started.”

Of the $100 million invested in downtown development projects since 2006, more than $60 million came from private investments. The private sector will invest an additional $120 million in the downtown district, Flood said.

“The amount of private investment has increased substantially,” Flood said. “The work the city put toward redevelopment is starting to pay off.” 

Roger Johnson, manager of Greenville’s Office of Economic Development, said those investment figures do not include small businesses that have located in the district or renovations to existing businesses in the area.

“Those are just the major developments in the works,” Johnson said. “We are seeing a huge increase in the number of small businesses investing in Uptown Greenville.” 

Johnson said city officials have encouraged small business growth by investing in infrastructure projects and creating various grant and incentive programs.

“The city is working to remove barriers to future development,” Johnson said. “And our elected officials have done a very good job of promoting our city’s future economic growth.”

The city has awarded about $525,000 in grants to more than 30 businesses through its Small Business Plan Competition, which was created to provide economic incentive to small business owners and other entrepreneurs to locate or expand businesses and create jobs within the Center City and West Greenville redevelopment areas.

Grants are awarded for $15,000 or $30,000 and can be used for working capital or operating funds, equipment purchases, improvements to owner-occupied property, leasehold improvements, expansion of business services or products, or other uses in a business plan.

About 329 jobs — 102 full-time and 227 part-time — have been created by the businesses since the grant program began in 2009, Johnson said. Funding for the program is approved by Greenville’s City Council and is included in the city’s annual operating budget.

“These businesses are creating clusters of jobs throughout the city and are providing a variety of services and amenities,” Johnson said. “They are making a positive impact.”

‘Buying in’

Local real estate developer Jim Ward said the growth of the city, ECU, PCC and Vidant Health has created an “exciting” economic climate in the area.

“Greenville has so many positive things going right now,” said Ward, an investment partner in the $42 million Boundary@West End development at 630 Cotanche St. and the upcoming $54 million Campus-Edge development at 10th and Charles streets. “These things are attractive to people looking to invest in a vibrant, growing community.

“It’s been a fairly long process,” Ward said. “But now the climate is right and the capital is available ... it is really exciting.”

Ward said major transportation projects — including the 10th Street Connector — will encourage additional investments in development projects once completed.

“The 10th Street Connector is a dynamic addition to our city,” Ward said. “It will bridge the downtown and medical communities and make them more accessible than ever before. A lot of development opportunities will be created once that project is finished.

“And the growth is not limited to just Uptown Greenville,” Ward said. “We are seeing a lot of commercial growth near PCC and other areas in the city. There are a lot of good things happening now ... people are buying into a vision for our community.”

 

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9575

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