The planning eye of Greenville is turning its sights on the area around the Downtown Greenville Airport and Greenville Convention Center and sees a district ripe for the kind of growth and development that attracts more than conventioneers and airplanes.
With additions that include pedestrian- and traffic-friendly enhancements, a vision is emerging for a district that has its own identity and its own promise.
The city of Greenville Airport District planning study presentation (pdf) was released in June as a way of explaining the city’s master plan for the Greenville Downtown Airport, Greenville Convention Center and surrounding properties.
The airport district plan is part of the GVL 2040 Comprehensive Plan, keeping in mind the overarching goals of affordable housing opportunities, open space and the environment, and transportation and mobility.
Greenville Assistant City Manager and Planning Director Shannon Lavrin said the primary focus of the master plan thus far has been to assess the area's existing conditions and work with the community to develop a vision for the future of the city’s development.
Feedback received by the city from a public presentation will help solidify the vision and guide the policy formulation phase of the plan, she said. The final master plan documents are expected to be complete in late summer or early fall. Subsequently, the plan will be reviewed by the planning commission, which will make a recommendation to the City Council for adoption, she added. The Greenville City Council is ultimately responsible for adopting the plan.
The plan will establish goals and objectives to provide a framework for implementation. That means identifying action steps, generating strategies to achieve those goals, and identifying capital improvement projects, programs, public-private partnerships, and other strategies and public investment opportunities to implement the plan, Lavrin said.
Objectives are to:
• Combine the economic development and land use vision of Greenville with the logistical requirements of the Greenville Airport Commission
• Support the Greenville Convention Center as a district hub and share airport development innovation, trends, and best practices
• Support transportation and public infrastructure improvements (including the Swamp Rabbit Trail) to encourage private investment
Feedback from the 60 participants in the public presentation included a need for more affordable grocery stores and housing, safe sidewalks and better walkability, restaurants and hotels, hangars, airside development including more restaurants, bike paths and lanes, open air venues and green space, and the fewer vacant buildings and lots in the Airport District.
Out of 366 participants from an online survey, 40% said the study area does not have its own identity or gateway feature, while more than 70% said the Greenville Convention Center and the Greenville Downtown Airport are community assets. Most of the participants said restaurants, recreation and entertainment are all key elements missing in the area.
Gauging the project’s economic impact
“This area of the city has significant development potential,” Lavrin said.
New development and redevelopments would generate additional activity at the convention center, she said. In addition, a planned runway expansion at the airport will likely result in additional economic impact.
“The city believes the survey results align with established principles and best practices in urban planning, affirming their relevance to people's sense of what constitutes a healthy, vibrant, human-centered environment,” she added.
The city issued a request for proposals last summer to select a qualified consultant for this project, said Lavrin. The consultant team led by CallisonRTKL— now Arcadis — was selected based on their experience working on similar projects and familiarity with Greenville from their work on the Swamp Rabbit Trail Extension Master Plan, which was completed in 2021, she said.
Arcadis conducted the project study and assessed the needs of the Airport District and surrounding areas, focusing on improvements of the quality of life for residents.
The corridors of the study area are Pleasantburg, Laurens and Haywood roads. The goals for those roads are to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and mobility; provide built-in traffic calming to reduce vehicular speeds and reduce crashes; create gateway and treatments to set the tone for aesthetics and reinvestment; and craft a sense of arrival and place along the corridors.
Design considerations of the study areas include proposing new posted speeds, widening side paths, lighting and pedestrian/vehicular crossing improvements, high-quality intersections and pedestrian crossings, signal timing improvements, and the addition of street trees and pocket medians.
Preliminary recommendations for the Greenville Convention Center master plan include creating a shared parking deck and capitalizing on hotel partnerships, according to the planning study.
Although the project does not include cost estimates, specific infrastructure components may be incorporated into the city’s capital improvement plan and annual budget process, said Lavrin. Other elements rely on private sector investment and working with the city’s planning staff and city officials to advance plan priorities as private property is redeveloped.
“Our goal is to build momentum and support for the plan through this process, which will lay the foundation for future partnerships on transformational projects within the Airport District,” Lavrin said.l