Overhaul of downtown Greenville’s I-385 gateway in the works

A team of planners is working on a strategy to transform the district on either side of East North Street that connects Interstate 385 to downtown Greenville.

The area serves as a major entryway into the heart of the city and includes Greenville landmarks like the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the Greenville County Law Enforcement Center and the Pettigru Historic District.

Juan Mullerat, founder of Miami-based urban planning firm Plusurbia, said while the district is one of the city’s most trafficked arteries, it doesn’t draw visitors and lacks a cohesive identity. He and his team hope to offer recommendations to change that.

“Right now, this entrance could be in Charlotte, it could be in Raleigh, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not Greenville right now. So that’s what we identified and think we can help improve.”

Robert and Jennifer Donovan, who own the marketing firm DOM360 which is based in the gateway district, enlisted Plusurbia to conduct the analysis. Robert Donovan said they and other private donors contributed more than $200,000 to hire the planning firm.

Mayor Knox White said improving the corridor has been on the city’s radar for years. The privately lead effort will create a path forward for making major improvements to the district as a whole, he said, as well as key area’s such as the arena.

“It’s never had any kind of focused attention and it’s a gateway into Greenville,” he said. “So it certainly appealed to us. To do anything to provide a plan for a better gateway into downtown is something that we’ve long wanted to see.”

The study is in its early stages and the scope remains broad, Mullerrat said, but its aimed at revitalizing the district to make it a more seamless extension of downtown Greenville and a destination in its own right. Mullerat said his team will likely look at ways to enhance the assets that are already there, beautify the area, and increase walkability and connectivity.

Plusurbia is coordinating with the city, the county, the state Department of Transportation and local residents to determine what improvements are possible along the corridor and in the surrounding area.

On Feb. 18, the planning team hosted a public meeting to solicit input to better inform their vision for the district. Participants gathered around tables at the Coldwell Banker Caine office on Williams Street and used markers to draw suggestions on maps of the area in question.

Mullerat said during the meeting that the information gathered would be vital to the process going forward.

“Zoning, planning, mobility, connectivity, health, height of buildings, land use, all of those are important,” he said. “I don’t want to tell you what’s important to me, because I don’t live here. What I want to know is what’s important to you.”

A similar session is scheduled for Feb. 19, and the team will continue gathering input for the next several days. In the coming months, he said his team will compile the information they gathered to form a draft proposal.

“There will be a lot of back and forth between the city, the county and us to make sure what we are presenting is implementable,” he said. “After that, we hope to present a formal draft to the city so they can take actionable steps.”

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