This story first appeared in the March 7 print edition of GSA Business Report.
Dean Warhaft doesn’t think the multi-use development trend is just a trend — at least, it’s not one that’s going anywhere soon.
And in many ways, the former Union Bleachery co-developer sees acres of room for the “village concept” to expand within his On the Trail community: 240-acres built out over two decades.
“The residential piece is what I like to refer to as the low-hanging fruit,” he told GSA Business Report. “Everybody, every developer that’s doing multifamily seems to want to come to Greenville and would love to be on our site, and they’ve literally been banging down our door. That’s the easy stuff.”
Luxury apartments, townhouses, affordable housing, restaurants and retail space will make up part of the project, which is up to 20 million square feet approved by Greenville County for the $2 billion to $3.5 billion development, according to Warhaft and partner Warren Zinn of Atlas Capital Group Inc. The old bleachery is at 3335 Old Buncombe Road.
“I think that what’s happened here in the U.S. is that we as a society have recognized that the way in which the village lifestyle of Europe ... is a better quality of life,” he said. “You don’t have to travel on a plane or hundreds and hundreds of miles. You can literally just go to the next little village that’s within your overall regional pocket, or MSA. I think that’s why you’re seeing more of that happen around the country.”
Phil Hughes of Hughes Investment claims an Italian hamlet as the inspiration for his $100 million Bridgeway Station development, now under construction in Mauldin.
“Greenville has kind of that European village feel to it,” Warhaft said. “And I think that other European companies that, when they came to do business with BMW, they saw and felt it as well, which is why so many of them have been attracted to the Upstate. Because you do have that between Spartanburg, Easley and Anderson and Greenville, Fountain Inn: the way that all these little pockets or nodes, if you will, kind of function together, yet they have their own sense of place.”
To recreate the village lifestyle in its fullest iteration within On the Trail, its developers seek to foster “a hub of corporate success” on the property.
“The thing that’s a little bit harder, but extremely important to the overall success of the placemaking is the commercial aspect,” he said. “The uses are all contained within a statement of intent, which is essentially city building. All of the main uses that you could think of that you would want available to you within a city structure are there.”
Tapping into the robust growth of the life science industry in the Palmetto State, Zinn and Warhaft sought out a partnership with SCBIO and the S.C. Research Authority to attract wet labs and corporate offices to the site. One has expressed interest in the site since last year.
The On the Trail site is a multi-county industrial park between Greenville and Anderson counties and was approved by Greenville County Council in a Feb. 2 meeting for certification as a textile mill revitalization project.
“We’re starting construction later this summer, and so now we’re ready to find ourselves some quality tenants,” he said.
Avison Young, the project’s real estate partner, is marketing 10 to 240-acre lots for development. McMillan Pazdan Smith is collaborating on the development as the architect of record for the master plan.
“We are excited to re-envision the development into a new hub that encompasses wellness, active living and connectivity,” Lisa Lanni, McMillan Pazdan Smith’s principal architect for the project, told GSA Business Report in a statement.
Since last April, environmental engineers Kimley Horn along with ReWa and Duke Energy helped delist the 150 acres of the site from the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund List and enter the 1903 site into the state’s brownfield program.
“My hope and goal is that we can still keep some important remnant pieces, but that kind of remains to be seen,” he said.
But for what can’t be preserved of the historic structure, Warhaft aims to conserve for the site’s green space — another benefit of the village-based development concept, he said. Berkeley professor Walter Hood, a landscape architect with the Hood Design Group, will weave the site’s environment and history into its 10-mile trail network.
“The story of this site is all about big nature and how you have this industrial site that kind of took over nature, and then fell into disrepair and burned down,” said Warhaft. “And then over the next couple of decades, when something is just left to nature’s devices, nature takes it back over and kind of re-engulfs it. And so how do we now build this urban environment without just taking nature back over again, but allowing nature to continue to kind of feed into the site?”