Uptown Greenville celebrates downtown growth, future development
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The city’s core is under construction and well on its way to further establishing itself as a cultural and economic driver for eastern North Carolina, according to local officials.
More than 250 business, cultural and community leaders gathered on Tuesday at the Martinsborough Venue for Uptown Greenville's annual State of the District program.
The evening featured updates on revitalization efforts, new additions and future development.
Bianca Shoneman, president and CEO of Uptown Greenville, began the event by saying she believes efforts to revitalize the downtown area are succeeding, and that continued investment and growth are essential the city’s future.
“The baseline for any great city is its small businesses and its local events; truly the baseline of Greenville is that combination,” she said. “It’s the greatness of our business and the greatness of our community events that develop a sense of place and authenticity for a municipality.”
Shoneman pointed out that development has led to some issues, such as parking difficulties, traffic and storm water backups. Yet, all of these are symptoms of a positive growth and success, she said.
Development efforts create challenges, but ultimately create a better city, she said.
“We are under construction you guys, and it’s not going to get any easier in the next year or so, it’s going to get a lot more challenging,” Shoneman said.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Bill King, senior vice president of planning and development for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
King discussed initiatives and strategies that Raleigh has used to bring new life and development to its downtown area. He said private and public investments were critical.
“Broadly speaking, the best thing a city can do is invest in its downtown,” he said. “There's not a great city that has a weak downtown. There's the bigger investments like a parking deck, but there are smaller investments, such as murals, public art, and beautification projects, that help make that sense of place.
“So when people think, 'Well when I go to Greenville what do I need to go see?’ they come downtown first,” King said.
The theme of the event was “Feet on the Street,” a homage to the year's unprecedented increase in residential population and space downtown , largely due to the ongoing construction of three large student apartment complexes. Once complete, these projects will increase the available living spaces to 615,000 square feet, with the 824 residential units expected to open in 2018.
Since 2014, the area has also seen a 400 percent increase in resident population, growing from 545 to an expected 2,643 residents by 2019. In 2017, 14 new businesses located in the downtown area.
King said in addition to a growing residential population, a good indicator of a healthy, budding downtown culture is local businesses and collaboration between partners.
“I think you see a lot of locally oriented businesses, you see a lot of makers, people like craft brewers and coffee makers, you also see local restaurants, particularly farm-to-table types,” he said. “I think we see collaborations here as well, community is really important because that ecosystem helps each other in a lot of ways, sometimes in back-ways like figuring out business, but also with real interesting experiences that create the experience people want to be a part of.”
Following King's presentation, District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley unveiled an initiative to create a outdoor chess set at Sheppard Memorial Library that he said aims to creating the “sense of place” King spoke about.
Part of the evening was set aside for annual awards to be given out, which recognized new and old businesses and the partners that helped make them possible.
Pitt Street Brewing Company won the People’s Choice for Small Business of the Year award. The brewery opened off Dickinson Avenue in 2017 after renovating the 7,500 square foot former Coca-Cola Bottling building.
The Volunteer of the Year award was given to Kristina Harris for her efforts, mostly focused on Freeboot Friday.
The Visionary Award was given to Thomas Taft for his efforts in revitalizing several properties and areas downtown.
Rivers and Associates was given a centenarian recognition for their 100 years of operation in downtown Greenville.
Contact Seth Gulledge at firstname.lastname@example.org and 329-9579.