Development Dichotomies: A Discussion of Planning in Greenville, SC

Written by: Edward A Kinney RLA, MLA, ASLA, ISA, Sr. Landscape Architect, City of Greenville, SC.

Downtown Greenville, South Carolina has been at the epicenter of an urban revitalization for the last 20 years. It began with the redesign of Main Street in the 1970s by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and was bolstered by the construction of Falls Park in 2005. Downtown Greenville, with the right mix of public and private investment, has become a beacon for growth and design in the upstate. In acknowledgement of this growth, and the design catalyst at its core, Greenville was recently awarded the Rudy Bruner Silver Medal Award for Urban Excellence.

“Success however, sometimes comes at a price,” noted Greenville’s Senior Landscape Architect Edward Kinney.  “The great emphasis put on downtown and our continued growth threatens more established communities. We’re also dealing with the downsides of our success, traffic congestion and pedestrian congestion.”

“But with that success comes the ability to engage a larger audience,” noted Parks and Recreation Director Dana Souza. “We realized that the Rudy Bruner Award was an opportunity for us to discuss these problems and seek out solutions in a public setting.”

Thus was born Development Dichotomies – Concentrated Urban Renaissance and the Rest of the Community. This past October, the City of Greenville hosted a design forum focusing on Greenville’s urban renaissance with a special emphasis on the changing paradigm of public transportation uses, challenges to established and intact neighborhoods, and the methods which community leaders and design practitioners use to facilitate changes to the urban fabric.

The forum included Simeon Bruner, architect and founder of the Rudy Bruner Award; Tim Keane, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Community Development for Atlanta; Anne-Marie Lubenau, architect and Director of the Rudy Bruner Award; Mary Padua, Founding Chair of Clemson University’s Department of Landscape Architecture; Ginny Stroud, Administrator of Greenville’s Community Development Department; Richard Webel, President of Pacolet Milliken and Lockhart; and Brad Wyche, founder of Upstate Forever.

The forum was an AIA and ASLA educational accredited event. Members of Greenville’s design and development community were all invited, as were city staff, municipal leaders, and students from nearby Clemson University and Furman University. “We had nearly a hundred of our area’s most involved practitioners and civic leaders,” said Kinney. “It was a great way to disseminate design solutions for urban issues, and to enhance the thought process for how we, as a city, are guiding our growth.”

“It was a great success,” said Souza, “and we plan on doing it again.”