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gs3

Laurens Road @ Pleasantburg

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While a bit rough around the edges, Laurens Road has so much potential to be the next booming West End.

Laurens Road gets ragged on, but with minor streetscaping by the city, this little area could be a gem. All it needs is a little polish and shine. Look at the level of retail in the area.......diverse, upscale, local, unique. FAR, FAR, FAR from being some boarded up, abandoned area (as West End was), Laurens still has very viable shopping that draws a very diverse, urban crowd. From Indian food, to gay and lesbian stores, to premium cycles and SUV's, to music, Irish pubs, college students. I'd dare say that within two to three blocks of this intersection, is the most eclectic gathering of businesses within Greenville. Take a look at the photo tour below, I think you'll agree, Laurens Road is just one step away from being the next great area. Just a little boost from the city.

Look at the great things ALREADY there, then think about the next level. Doesn't take much vision to see how dynamic this area could be! :thumbsup: This area could be much like Houston's Rice Village area:

http://www.ricevillageonline.com/tour.php?page=19

Take a look at what Laurens / Pleasantburg has to offer now! Could be even better! :thumbsup:

Garner's health food market:

CIMG5263.jpg

Camelot (Independent theater. You can see first run, art and controversial):

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The Great Escape (one of Greenville's best cycling stores):

CIMG5274.jpg

The gay and lesbian community has a store:

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One of the cities most highly rated restaurants:

http://www.33liberty.com/

CIMG5266.jpg

South Carolina's only Vespa dealer:

http://www.vespausa.com/dealers/locations.cfm?state=SC

CIMG5269.jpg

One of Greenville's favorite Irish pubs:

CIMG5284.jpg

Indian food anyone?

CIMG5267.jpg

High end SUV's:

CIMG5272.jpg

Comics and games:

CIMG5273.jpg

Premium motorsports:

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South Carolina's largest independent bookstore....free thinkers.....Subaru drivers....old friends for Vandy :D

http://www.theopenbookonline.com/reviews.html

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Martial Arts:

CIMG5277.jpg

Wanna go hiking or kayaking?

CIMG5275.jpg

Vegetarian Indian:

CIMG5280.jpg

CIMG5279.jpg

Indian groceries:

CIMG5278.jpg

Corporate headquarters offices for world known names:

CIMG5282.jpg

Music and more music:

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A revitalized mall that's now a University Center for multiple colleges. This is the old Upton's, now Greenville Tech admissions. By the way, in case you haven't noticed, the peimeter areas are in the process of receiving new landscaping, repaved parking, and a general facelift. :thumbsup:

CIMG5283.jpg

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Does anyone know how the Camelot is doing?

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This area certainly has a lot of potential, but it is suffering from demographic trends opposite those that are causing the West End to rebound. Two BIG trends these days in US cities are (1) the renaissance of downtowns as high-end "urban resorts" (other examples are downtown Charleston and uptown Charlotte), just as the West End has risen from nothing, and (2) the decline of inner-ring suburbs (other examples are Decker Blvd. and Bush River Rd. in Columbia and the Eastland Mall area of Charlotte).

To fully make the Pleasantburg Drive area into a thriving destination- at least what it once was, which was just typical suburban sprawl- would maybe require moving residential growth back into the area, which I don't see happening, given the prevalence of '60s and '70s houses (and I grew up in one, so I'm not knocking them), which aren't at the top of a lot of people's lists of most-desired housing. Landscaping and some aesthetic improvements would definitely help, but the area's location is just in area that, like many similar areas around the US, is troubled because growth has gone elsewhere- to a certain extent back to downtown areas, and more so to exurban areas at Greenville's edge. And if people don't live around the area, they might want to come browse and shop there only if the area becomes more pedestrian-friendly.

And lest I get a post back saying, "mallguy, you don't know what you're saying and you don't know the area," I most certainly do. I recall shopping at McAlister Square from around the time the mall opened (even at Meyers-Arnold) and was devastated when the mall went under, recall lots of lunches at Frodo's Pizza and Tanner's, lived through the McAlister Square fire, went to jr. high school at Beck, and even recall shopping at Carolina Baby, where the Open Book is now, and the Belk's furniture store, and more; the area is where I grew up and have been in constant contact with it with for my entire life. My family has also been closely involved in real estate around the area, having recently sold a few plots of land around Pleasantburg Drive.

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I don't know dollar figures, but I'd say pretty well judging by the crowds. It's the only theater I go to now. It's a much more young adult / adult / urban crowd......fewer teens and kids. Just a little more relaxed at the Camelot. No one cruising the parking lot.....not really a need for police.....etc, etc. Always a large crowd. Love this theater! :wub: Also, if there is film that may not make it to Greenville, Camelot usually brings it....ie: Brokeback Mountain.

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To fully make the Pleasantburg Drive area into a thriving destination- at least what it once was, which was just typical suburban sprawl- Drive.

Don't want it be what it was! It WAS 50's/60's early sprawl and mall. It's now a little more urban (as sprawl spreads far beyond it's boundaries), and peppered with some cool stores. Don't EVER want it to be what it was.....want it to be what it could be....a much more urban, walkable, hip area. Examples....Rice Village in Houston, Fremont District in Seattle, what Decatur has become in Atlanta, etc, etc.

My family has also been closely involved in real estate around the area, having recently sold a few plots of land around Pleasantburg Drive.

Maybe your family could be the first then to help this area evolve to the next level. :thumbsup:

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I think the area would need significant new infill/redevelopment to become a pedestrian-friendly destination or even office or retail destination. Different parts of cities have life cycles, and given that development in Greenville, like in many other areas now, is concentrated downtown and at suburban fringes, I don't see the Pleasantburg Drive/Laurens Road area as being a target for significant development in the next few years at least; other than Greenville Tech, neither major corporations nor major retailers are jumping to locate there, so I think the area's hope could be like downtown's: small, locally-owned stores could help provide initial development, and perhaps the area could eventually bounce back. City/county government could help push things along with landscaping and the like, but I think more could and should be done.

I still think in-town neighborhoods are underserved retail markets. 30 years ago downtown had three large department stores, Lewis Plaza had a small Belk, and three shopping centers with department stores and/or discounters served the area: Bell Tower Mall, McAlister Square and that sad little Wade Hampton Mall. Although downtown has regained most of its retail space, mainstream big-box discount stores and department stores are no longer in the area. Hopefully one of these days Belk's or another chain will realize that there is an untapped market to be filled, although I can't see any of them returning to Pleasantburg Drive, at least as the road is now.

Re: my family taking the area to the next level: after hundreds of hours of studying the area and its prospects, we said no, thanks.

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Does anyone know how the Camelot is doing?

The Camelot is remaining very strong. For those reading who don't already know, it is the only movie theatre near the area with true DLP and THX technologies. The color and sound is phenomenal! :shades:

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What's good to see about McAlister Square and what I wish they would do at Cherrydale is that they are breaking up sections of asphalt in the parking area to add landscaping.

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Awesome photo tour, gsupstate! I have never thought of this area in the same light, but you have me imagining what a few cosmetic improvements might do for it. :thumbsup:

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One significant problem with trying to generate the same kind of development on Laurens as in the West End.

Transportation. It takes five minutes to walk from one end of the West End to the other. On Laurens Rd, it takes five minutes to walk from one store to another. (Ok, an exaggeration, but you get the point.)

I'm not saying it's not possible, but just very difficult. Redevelopment is actually easier in an area where things are run down and boarded up, due to cheaper costs.

I think ultimately, it would require mixed-use development over empty parking areas. Considering that thes businesses remain economically viable, convincing owners to sell parking areas for redevelopment purposes will be a hard sell.

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One significant problem with trying to generate the same kind of development on Laurens as in the West End.

Transportation. It takes five minutes to walk from one end of the West End to the other. On Laurens Rd, it takes five minutes to walk from one store to another. (Ok, an exaggeration, but you get the point.)

I'm not saying it's not possible, but just very difficult. Redevelopment is actually easier in an area where things are run down and boarded up, due to cheaper costs.

I think ultimately, it would require mixed-use development over empty parking areas. Considering that thes businesses remain economically viable, convincing owners to sell parking areas for redevelopment purposes will be a hard sell.

Agreed. The area needs a ton of new development to become walkable. Walking around downtown is fun and it's something I'd take visitors to do. Walking through parking lots on Pleasantburg Drive is not something I would take visitors to do- or I'd guess I'm the odd one out, since people seem to be raving about Pleasantburg Drive?

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The Camelot is remaining very strong. For those reading who don't already know, it is the only movie theatre near the area with true DLP and THX technologies. The color and sound is phenomenal! :shades:

And this gives great hope that they will be showing the 3-D releases of the original Star Wars trilogy :yahoo:

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One significant problem with trying to generate the same kind of development on Laurens as in the West End.

Transportation. It takes five minutes to walk from one end of the West End to the other. On Laurens Rd, it takes five minutes to walk from one store to another. (Ok, an exaggeration, but you get the point.)

I'm not saying it's not possible, but just very difficult. Redevelopment is actually easier in an area where things are run down and boarded up, due to cheaper costs.

I think ultimately, it would require mixed-use development over empty parking areas. Considering that thes businesses remain economically viable, convincing owners to sell parking areas for redevelopment purposes will be a hard sell.

You bring up some very good points breed. :thumbsup: A possible thought on the transportation....Pleasantburg Shopping Center is 3 or 4 buildings, it's the original "lifestyle center" from the 50's/60's. I could see both the city and the center adding lighted, landscaped walkable sidewalks...much like the picture below for Greenridge. Think about it....people are currently in love with outdoor shopping (look at the number walking on the sidewalk any given Saturday at Greenridge). Pleasantburg does have an advantage in that the parking lot is not mass....between Laurens and Half Moon Outfitters, I think that lot is maybe only four cars deep. The little strip center with Swad is two cars deep. These are small fifties parking lots. I could see this are being an "in town Greenridge", only it would be the real thing. Wouldn't want it to have mass/big box/department store retailers, but more of the kind of unique stores that are already there, with a few added specialty chains.

Photo from Greenridge:

CIMG5255.jpg

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Plans have been proposed to turn Pleasantburg Shopping Center into a mixed-use development; it was on the Pleasantburg Drive website a while back. There was an interesting analysis done of Pleasantburg Drive that I read a while back; the report outlined how much retail space could potentially be supported in the area. I forget what the amount was, but it wasn't significantly higher than what is currently there.

So any shopping center development would probably be most successful if done in connection with attracting a decent number of new upscale residents with disposable income to the area, or in tandem with development of another big anchor (not necessarily a retail one) that would attract a lot more potential customers. I'd like to have an in-town Greenridge, but the factors that drove retailers away from McAlister Square and its environs haven't fundamentally changed and thus I don't see a retail influx anytime soon, except among locally-owned retailers that can't pay high rents; we'd need to change those factors.

Also, McAlister Square had typical mall retailers that weren't as upscale as those in Rice Village: The Limited, Belk's, Dillard's, Upton's, Eckerd's, Lerner, Shoe Show, J Riggings, Auntie Anne's, Baskin-Robbins, Casual Corner, Friedman's Jewelers, Mr. Knickerbocker, Foot Locker, Bookland, Sbarro, Chick-fil-A, Ritz Camera, etc. Back in the '80s it had more upscale stores, such as a Hart-Schaffner-Marx store and a Lillie Rubin, but those stores went to Haywood. To get a Banana Republic or the like to that area would take a significant upward shift in demographics.

Also, having locally-owned stores in a shopping center generally means lower rents than in a mall chain-type development like Greenridge. That means less money for shopping center improvements, unless public funding for some of the improvements is obtained.

If I owned the area, I would just tear down most of the existing commercial structures along Pleasantburg Drive, rezone the area as mixed-use/residential, and rebuild it as high-density housing, with grid streets, neighborhood-type stores, etc. I'd start over with a lot of the area. Some of the area plans on the Pleasantburg Drive website call for that, which I agree with.

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Plans have been proposed to turn Pleasantburg Shopping Center into a mixed-use development; it was on the Pleasantburg Drive website a while back. There was an interesting analysis done of Pleasantburg Drive that I read a while back; the report outlined how much retail space could potentially be supported in the area. I forget what the amount was, but it wasn't significantly higher than what is currently there.

So any shopping center development would probably be most successful if done in connection with attracting a decent number of new upscale residents with disposable income to the area, or in tandem with development of another big anchor (not necessarily a retail one) that would attract a lot more potential customers. I'd like to have an in-town Greenridge, but the factors that drove retailers away from McAlister Square and its environs haven't fundamentally changed and thus I don't see a retail influx anytime soon, except among locally-owned retailers that can't pay high rents; we'd need to change those factors.

Also, McAlister Square had typical mall retailers that weren't as upscale as those in Rice Village: The Limited, Belk's, Dillard's, Upton's, Eckerd's, Lerner, Shoe Show, J Riggings, Auntie Anne's, Baskin-Robbins, Casual Corner, Friedman's Jewelers, Mr. Knickerbocker, Foot Locker, Bookland, Sbarro, Chick-fil-A, Ritz Camera, etc. Back in the '80s it had more upscale stores, such as a Hart-Schaffner-Marx store and a Lillie Rubin, but those stores went to Haywood. To get a Banana Republic or the like to that area would take a significant upward shift in demographics.

Also, having locally-owned stores in a shopping center generally means lower rents than in a mall chain-type development like Greenridge. That means less money for shopping center improvements, unless public funding for some of the improvements is obtained.

If I owned the area, I would just tear down most of the existing commercial structures along Pleasantburg Drive, rezone the area as mixed-use/residential, and rebuild it as high-density housing, with grid streets, neighborhood-type stores, etc. I'd start over with a lot of the area. Some of the area plans on the Pleasantburg Drive website call for that, which I agree with.

Not even talking malls here....talking about creating a unique "district", and the "bones" of this areas architecture and it smattering of unique retail could be played upon.

Really sad to think people out there want to tear it down.....this was the same mentality that destroyed downtowns.....that mentality didn't work then, so why use it on first ring 50's/60's burbs? :(

Oh yeah, and since this area declined 25 years ago, lets just NUKE the whole area and be done with it! :rofl: Forget this is 2006 and a nationwide renewed interest in not only downtowns, but "in-town areas".

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Not even talking malls here....talking about creating a unique "district", and the "bones" of this areas architecture and it smattering of unique retail could be played upon.

Really sad to think people out there want to tear it down.....this was the same mentality that destroyed downtowns.....that mentality didn't work then, so why use it on first ring 50's/60's burbs? :(

Oh yeah, and since this area declined 25 years ago, lets just NUKE the whole area and be done with it! :rofl: Forget this is 2006 and a nationwide renewed interest in not only downtowns, but "in-town areas".

I wasn't saying "let's make a mall". Your post above pointed to Rice Village; I looked at the Rice Village website and saw what it has. I'm just saying that for anything- especially something upscale-ish- like Rice Village or an in-town Greenridge- the area would need a shift towards larger amounts of upscale housing to provide the demographics required to make it work.

I don't see the general renewed interest in inner-ring suburbs, although maybe that will come one day. Property values along Pleasantburg Drive, for example, have declined significantly over the past 10 years (25 years ago the area was fine- I was living there then- were you?).

Also, commercial areas undergo redevelopment, often piece by piece, over time in order to stay competitive and economically viable. A lot of the commercial spaces along Pleasantburg Drive were built to meet the needs of retailers 40 years ago and aren't currently suited for today's stores. Sure, we should certainly leave at least some of it for people like you who like that kind of stuff and will put stores in it, but just like a lot of downtown's original construction was replaced, piece by piece, starting in the 1920s (such as when the Poinsett Hotel replaced the Mansion House), Pleasantburg Drive, like any commercial area, will need to adapt with new construction every now and then to stay competitive. So even if the whole area isn't completely demolished, it will almost surely change and evolve with new development. Even the West End has changed with some new construction in the last 12 years, such as the West End Market and the baseball stadium. Would it have been preferable to not build those new things in the West End? Perhaps not doing so would have allowed the area to keep its architectural integrity, but the area would have been stagnant without that, and new construction has drawn people to the area who have in turn spent money to fix up other older buildings. Same thing should happen to Pleasantburg Drive.

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Even the West End has changed with some new construction in the last 12 years, such as the West End Market and the baseball stadium. Would it have been preferable to not build those new things in the West End? Perhaps not doing so would have allowed the area to keep its architectural integrity, but the area would have been stagnant without that, and new construction has drawn people to the area who have in turn spent money to fix up other older buildings. Same thing should happen to Pleasantburg Drive.

Not a valid point. The ballpark was built on a blank field. I do see your point and agree that high density housing would need to be built, but this should be in vacant lots. Pleasantburg Shopping Center is one of the few 50's style lifetsyle centers that remain in Greenville. It should be saved.

I just think a developer with a little vision and some initiative, could have a gold mine on their hands. Checked the traffic count of Laurens lately???? It's high, and with ICAR will only grow higher. And it isn't the immediate area lower income using the road....it's the upper income Golden Strip residents taking their Range Rovers for service and the Augusta Road residents heading to Camelot for a movie.

It's like my comment at the start of this thread....look at the make-up of stores in this area (diverse) and the people that traverse this area daily (diverse and all demographics).

It has much potential. Hate to see anyone write that off. This area would be a perfect spot for another one of Greenville's famous public/private partnerships! :thumbsup:

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The West End Market replaced in part some other structures. And elsewhere in downtown, the building where Carolina First is replaced a vacant Belk's, the Hyatt replaced other commercial buildings, etc.

So I think we both agree- save a lot of the '50s/'60s commercial architecture but do some in-fill development in the parking lots. Works for me and that would help the area turn around. I still think most of that architecture is junk, but if there are investors who disagree, more power to them.

Odd thing is that the housing market in the area is probably still fine; I don't think it's like an Eastland Mall area in Charlotte, where middle-income people fled to newer and nicer neighborhoods; the residential base is there, but the people who live in the area just don't really shop as much there as they used to because the retailers have moved on. So at least the housing market hasn't gone to pot; that would be a MUCH harder problem to solve.

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I'd really love to see Laurens Road and Pleasantburg Drive fixed up and reinvested in by nice businesses. There is probably little doubt, if any, that these corridors will surely reap positive benefits from the I-85 explosion. I see more density developing within the City over the next few decades as these projects finish up.

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The West End Market replaced in part some other structures. And elsewhere in downtown, the building where Carolina First is replaced a vacant Belk's, the Hyatt replaced other commercial buildings, etc.

Replacing a department store with a bank is not the same. I'm talking about taking the 50's buildings that are there.....add some great landscaping and make it more pedestrian friendly.....maybe repaint the buildings and do minor cosmetic changes, but keep the feel from their era. Get more local stores to join Great Escape, 33 Liberty, Earshot, etc. Get some national specialty, but boutique, not mass, not big box. I'm talking "adaptive re-use", not "redevelopment". I do agree with your point that high density housing would be a great addition, but build it in empty spots for even more density.

As for demographics, the immediate area is not great, but look at the Brio or Mills Mill and their immediate area demographics aren't stellar either.

But even without the immediate demographics, 33 Liberty does great with $100 dollar dinners, Land Rover sells $100,000 SUV's, expensive kayaks sell, a music store chain that went out of business was valuable enough to transform into Earshot, Indian and ethinic food abound.

This area has some kind of je na sais quoi that people like, and it shouldn't be tossed away. It should be handled smartly, and given every bit the thought processes and planning that have gone into West End. It could be Greenville next happening "district".

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I think we're envisioning different goals for the area- you seem to want a funky-type area with "je nE sais quoi" and with as much original architecture as possible. I don't; I'd rather have an area that has as much residential and commercial activity as possible and puts as much tax money into city coffers as reasonably feasible. If you get investors on board for this, more power to you. Not my cup of tea; I don't find the area particularly attractive (and never thought it was, even in its heyday) and just think that it needs a lot more work than just some minor refreshing to make it into a big destination. You might not agree, but it's the diversity of opinions on this board that make it the valuable resource that it is. So more power to you for your views.

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I think we're envisioning different goals for the area-

Agree

but it's the diversity of opinions on this board that make it the valuable resource that it is.

Agree again. :)

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Replacing a department store with a bank is not the same. I'm talking about taking the 50's buildings that are there.....add some great landscaping and make it more pedestrian friendly.....maybe repaint the buildings and do minor cosmetic changes, but keep the feel from their era. Get more local stores to join Great Escape, 33 Liberty, Earshot, etc. Get some national specialty, but boutique, not mass, not big box. I'm talking "adaptive re-use", not "redevelopment". I do agree with your point that high density housing would be a great addition, but build it in empty spots for even more density.

As for demographics, the immediate area is not great, but look at the Brio or Mills Mill and their immediate area demographics aren't stellar either.

But even without the immediate demographics, 33 Liberty does great with $100 dollar dinners, Land Rover sells $100,000 SUV's, expensive kayaks sell, a music store chain that went out of business was valuable enough to transform into Earshot, Indian and ethinic food abound.

This area has some kind of je na sais quoi that people like, and it shouldn't be tossed away. It should be handled smartly, and given every bit the thought processes and planning that have gone into West End. It could be Greenville next happening "district".

I'm on your side on this one, gsupstate. :thumbsup: If positive progress can be added to an area with an already decent economic foundation, the end result will be nothing short of successful. At this point I don't care if Laurens Road or Pleasantburg Drive become a "destination" in the sense of a tourist attraction, but I do think it can be another powerful district/destination where locals could enjoy an entire day without having to drive to and from other hotspots. I see more residential developments nearby, and Greenville Tech is always very busy. There are plenty of reasons to enhance the life of this area in a more appealing way, IMO.

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I don't find the area particularly attractive (and never thought it was, even in its heyday.

I think parts of Laurens Rd are kind of cool looking and have a lot of potential. I used to work at 33 liberty and on occasion would walk up the hill (shoppers lane) to the front of the plaza. Call me crazy but that little street always made me think of San Francisco. If the right developer comes along the shopping center good be positively transformed.

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I agree that this part of town has some interesting character to it and a lot of potential. The residential areas just behind the retail are probably what should be brightened up first though. New townhomes and apartments would have great selling points - easy biking distance to Greenville Tech, Cleveland Park, retail. Then those parking lots could fill in with new shops, maybe some mixed use buildings. Route parking to the side streets; traffic wouldn't get too bad with the grid-pattern streets already in place.

As for specialty shops: I personally don't find myself ever driving specifically to places like that unless I'm hard-pressed finding a gift for someone. If it were a place that was better suited for pedestrians, or if I lived nearby, I would be more likely to browse and buy.

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