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The State of Downtown Retail

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So....how is that Dunkin' Donuts flagship coming along? :lol:

Cruel! :)

There is a large Verizon logo covering the windows along Main Street with "coming soon" included. I feel better about the probability that this store will actually open there. While some people would like a downtown DD, this is a parallel trade-off in my opinion.

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Zoning is key key key in downtown vs. suburban development. That's an exclusively state/local issue. Same with many infrastructure improvements and TIF financing and other targeted tax breaks for suburban developments.

Under Greenville's zoning, except in a small part of the CBD, it is illegal to build anything that is not set back from the street, suburban-style, and illegal to build any commercial development that does not have a minimum number of parking spaces. That alone makes urban expansion difficult, if not impossible. And that's a totally local issue that would not arise but for government.

I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying there shouldn’t be zoning? In its place will arise a series of equally restrictive, but inconsistent and unpredictable private regulations… see Houston. Are you saying infrastructure should be dictated by developers? Are you familiar with the way most places work here? It pretty much is. I’m not sure where you’re going with TIF districts, as they locally have been used almost exclusively to improve the urban environment, in a way that the free market would not have done. I’m not clear on the targeted suburban tax breaks either.

What is really at issue is the price of land. The price of land dictates where people build and how densely they do so. Suburban employment centers aren’t built there because of government involvement, they are built there because the land is cheaper. Zoning hardly matters. If the zoning is not correct, a developer can go through a relatively painless re-zoning process or can easily find another chunk of land that is properly zoned. In addition, there is plenty of undeveloped land within five miles of downtown that is completely unzoned. If the zoning was so incredibly restrictive here, it would all be developed.

The bottom line is that there is a direct relationship between governmental involvement and downtown development. While there may be some issues with zoning, what is really a problem is the lack of restrictive zoning in the suburban areas, which forces the over-extension of infrastructure. Because our governmental bodies are relatively weak they simply respond to developer demand, resulting in infrastructure following development.

The best recent local example of governmental involvement improving downtown development is the Greenville Drive. Without government’s heavy hand, we would have a team in Mauldin and the West End would be just as dead as it was ten years ago.

With all of that being said, you do have a point about zoning. Once an area gets developed, the use zoning laws can often be more of a hindrance than a help, especially pure Euclidean zoning (all uses must be separate). But Greenville’s is pyramidal (allowing less intense uses in more intensely zoning areas) which means it is more progressive than most… but it’s not without its challenges. Overall I think it’s a leap to go from “the CBD overlay needs to be larger” to “government=bad.” There are a lot of legitimate reasons to criticize the government and how they interfere with society… but this is not one of them.

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I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying there shouldn’t be zoning? In its place will arise a series of equally restrictive, but inconsistent and unpredictable private regulations… see Houston. Are you saying infrastructure should be dictated by developers? Are you familiar with the way most places work here? It pretty much is. I’m not sure where you’re going with TIF districts, as they locally have been used almost exclusively to improve the urban environment, in a way that the free market would not have done. I’m not clear on the targeted suburban tax breaks either.

Not sure why it's unclear but government, through zoning laws, should not force suburban sprawl when the free market would build higher-density development in some areas. Zoning requirements of minimum setbacks from the street, minimum numbers of parking spaces and more force low-density development. While in perhaps most cases that may be what the private sector wants anyway, in some cases the private sector would build more "urban" development but cannot due to government.

Yes, I'm quite familiar with how "most places work" in Greenville. My family has been involved in real estate development there since the '20s.

TIF districts, targeted suburban tax breaks, etc.: recall the Bass Pro bill (H4200)? Recall improvements for I-385 proposed (by developers) for Magnolia Park? Further back, recall the extensive rebuilding of Haywood Road to lure the mall to be built? Recall the new bus lines and new road work done when Greenville Mall first opened in '78? Greenville's real estate history has tons of examples of government involvement to assist development on the suburban fringe.

And re: the rest of your post- developers build, and government just follows where developers go- what if developers had to pay the full costs (including new road work) for their developments, rather than having government shoulder a big chunk of costs through free road and other infrastructure improvements? Without government subsidies in the form of free roads to their developments and the like, the economic analysis of suburban developments would change at least somewhat, and suburban development would be more expensive vs. downtown, making downtown relatively more desirable for new construction.

Again, all I'm saying is that downtown would be somewhat larger, and more development would be dense, urban development, in the absence of government. Greenville's real estate history shows that, time and time again.

Edited by mallguy

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Again, all I'm saying is that downtown would be somewhat larger, and more development would be dense, urban development, in the absence of government. Greenville's real estate history shows that, time and time again.

This goes even further by ways of financing and Wall Street than you're describing, and is not unique to any area of the country. However, having seen how things have played out over the past 30 years for Greenville, I'm not sure I'd want to change anything about downtown itself. Sure, I'd rather see less suburban development sprawling outward. BUT, If there was no need to draw people back to downtown, would we really have the award winning and active urban space that we have today? I think we'd have ended up much more like Columbia's Main Street, but covering more area. We'd have more buildings built in a fashion that deter pedestrians. We've been lucky here in Greenville to not only have leaders who value the pedestrian experience and understand its importance, but we've also seen the majority of development occur with those policies in place.

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I think we'd have ended up much more like Columbia's Main Street, but covering more area. \

Ugh- I'd like to think that we'd be more like downtown White Plains, NY or Stamford, CT- with plenty of smaller, pedestrian friendly and older buildings but just even more stores and office buildings- downtown Greenville x 2.

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Ugh- I'd like to think that we'd be more like downtown White Plains, NY or Stamford, CT- with plenty of smaller, pedestrian friendly and older buildings but just even more stores and office buildings- downtown Greenville x 2.

Stamford's downtown feels like a bunch of suburban office buildings. There is no connectivity and no pedestrian feel at all. They have a cool town center with a really nice mall and some good restaurants, but that is only a small fraction of their downtown. Downtown Greenville is much, much better. :thumbsup:

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Stamford's downtown feels like a bunch of suburban office buildings. There is no connectivity and no pedestrian feel at all. They have a cool town center with a really nice mall and some good restaurants, but that is only a small fraction of their downtown. Downtown Greenville is much, much better. :thumbsup:

To each his own- to the northeast of the mall, on the other side of the mall as the train station, there are blocks and blocks of low-rise, totally pedestrian-friendly older buildings full of locally owned stores and restaurants. Downtown Stamford has more things that draw me (a Target, chain restaurants, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and many times more office space than downtown Greenville has, too- take downtown Greenville + lots more large office buildings (admittedly, designed for people to drive to, even though they are downtown) + a mall and - Falls Park and - the visual appeal of Main St. and you get Stamford.

Falls Park is prettier and Main St. Greenville is prettier, but Stamford just is a lot bigger. In my view, better to have a downtown that's many times larger than Greenville's, even if not all of it is like Main St. Greenville, than to have a city with most development in suburbia.

Edited by mallguy

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To each his own- to the northeast of the mall, on the other side of the mall as the train station, there are blocks and blocks of low-rise, totally pedestrian-friendly older buildings full of locally owned stores and restaurants. Downtown Stamford has more things that draw me (a Target, chain restaurants, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and many times more office space than downtown Greenville has, too- take downtown Greenville + lots more large office buildings (admittedly, designed for people to drive to, even though they are downtown) + a mall and - Falls Park and - the visual appeal of Main St. and you get Stamford.

Falls Park is prettier and Main St. Greenville is prettier, but Stamford just is a lot bigger. In my view, better to have a downtown that's many times larger than Greenville's, even if not all of it is like Main St. Greenville, than to have a city with most development in suburbia.

I don't dislike Stamford, but to me it feels like a collection of suburban office buildings where someone tried to force a "downtown feel." It just doesn't fit to me. I like it fine, but I don't think it is comparable to downtown Greenville. I know I am biased though. :blush:

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I don't dislike Stamford, but to me it feels like a collection of suburban office buildings where someone tried to force a "downtown feel." It just doesn't fit to me. I like it fine, but I don't think it is comparable to downtown Greenville. I know I am biased though. :blush:

No problem- I fully respect your views- did you go to all of downtown Stamford though or just the part along I-95 and between the mall and the train station? That part is all suburban-style office buildings, minus the parking lots, plus the fortress mall- there're lots of blocks of a Greenville-type downtown, complete with quaint, locally-owned stores and plenty of very pedestrian-friendly areas on the other side of the mall though. Greenville is prettier, for sure, but Stamford's downtown just has more in it (retail + office + housing).

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No problem- I fully respect your views- did you go to all of downtown Stamford though or just the part along I-95 and between the mall and the train station? That part is all suburban-style office buildings, minus the parking lots, plus the fortress mall- there're lots of blocks of a Greenville-type downtown, complete with quaint, locally-owned stores and plenty of very pedestrian-friendly areas on the other side of the mall though. Greenville is prettier, for sure, but Stamford's downtown just has more in it (retail + office + housing).

Well, I've worked in Stamford as a consultant. In fact, I'm on a first name basis with the Marriott Hotel staff on Tressler.

The one thing that stuck out to me was that Stamford from Tressler to the Metro-North/Amtrak station is very planned out, in fact, when I would stay in the upper floors of the hotel, it would be like I'm looking down on Singapore, or any other well planned out community. There is a multilevel Target in Stamford downtown, with a three or four level parking structure, then the two story SuperTarget on top of it. That entire area is very pedestrian friendly as I remember it, and the Stamford Town Center is a superb addition as a mall. Every night it was dinner at the Capitol Grille or PF Chang's or the Fish Market there.... The thing to remember about Stamford, and Fairfield County is that there is a ton, and I mean a ton of money in that area.

So compared to Greenville, I could see something like that, not in the core of downtown, maybe in the close outskirts or even at ICAR. I do have hopes that Greenville downtown within 5 years will have a very competitive retail environment, not unlike Stamford or even other transit oriented developments, minus the whole rail transit component.

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Well, I've worked in Stamford as a consultant. In fact, I'm on a first name basis with the Marriott Hotel staff on Tressler.

The one thing that stuck out to me was that Stamford from Tressler to the Metro-North/Amtrak station is very planned out, in fact, when I would stay in the upper floors of the hotel, it would be like I'm looking down on Singapore, or any other well planned out community. There is a multilevel Target in Stamford downtown, with a three or four level parking structure, then the two story SuperTarget on top of it. That entire area is very pedestrian friendly as I remember it, and the Stamford Town Center is a superb addition as a mall. Every night it was dinner at the Capitol Grille or PF Chang's or the Fish Market there.... The thing to remember about Stamford, and Fairfield County is that there is a ton, and I mean a ton of money in that area.

So compared to Greenville, I could see something like that, not in the core of downtown, maybe in the close outskirts or even at ICAR. I do have hopes that Greenville downtown within 5 years will have a very competitive retail environment, not unlike Stamford or even other transit oriented developments, minus the whole rail transit component.

What is all this talk about Stamford? I grew up in and around NYC and have known a bunch of people who have worked in Stamford. NOBODY I know loves Stamford. Some actively dislike it. You know what Stamford has going for it? New York City is relatively easy to get to. It's essentially a suburb of New York, whereas Greenville is it's own urban center. You're all excited about a Target? Really? I've said it before and I'll say it again, louder and more aggressively if I have to - generic chain stores and restaurants do not make a city great. The turn it into just another mall-city. That's not what makes Greenville good. If you want that, you have dozens of other places in this country that will offer you Targets and Gaps and whatever other mediocrity you desire. Please, leave downtown Greenville alone.

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Gosh, didn't mean to start a battle over Greenville vs. Stamford.

Basically, I think that Greenville's downtown is very attractive and appealing, and local leaders have done a great job with it. I'd just be happy if it had more to it- more office buildings (meaning more workers to spend money downtown), more attractions and particularly more retail- and not just more cutesy gift shops, as they don't appeal to me. Even if more retail meant a development on the outskirts of downtown like the Metropolitan Midtown development in Charlotte, I'd be happy. There are too many parking lots, particularly on the area between Main and Church Streets, that are unsightly and need to be filled with something.

What I like about Stamford is that I can take the train there, walk around and do all of the shopping I need, thanks to Target and the mall, and hit the locally-owned stores and restaurants too if I need. And I don't need to spend time in suburban sprawl to run errands.

Edited by mallguy

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Not sure why it's unclear but government, through zoning laws, should not force suburban sprawl when the free market would build higher-density development in some areas. Zoning requirements of minimum setbacks from the street, minimum numbers of parking spaces and more force low-density development. While in perhaps most cases that may be what the private sector wants anyway, in some cases the private sector would build more "urban" development but cannot due to government.

Yes, I'm quite familiar with how "most places work" in Greenville. My family has been involved in real estate development there since the '20s.

TIF districts, targeted suburban tax breaks, etc.: recall the Bass Pro bill (H4200)? Recall improvements for I-385 proposed (by developers) for Magnolia Park? Further back, recall the extensive rebuilding of Haywood Road to lure the mall to be built? Recall the new bus lines and new road work done when Greenville Mall first opened in '78? Greenville's real estate history has tons of examples of government involvement to assist development on the suburban fringe.

And re: the rest of your post- developers build, and government just follows where developers go- what if developers had to pay the full costs (including new road work) for their developments, rather than having government shoulder a big chunk of costs through free road and other infrastructure improvements? Without government subsidies in the form of free roads to their developments and the like, the economic analysis of suburban developments would change at least somewhat, and suburban development would be more expensive vs. downtown, making downtown relatively more desirable for new construction.

Again, all I'm saying is that downtown would be somewhat larger, and more development would be dense, urban development, in the absence of government. Greenville's real estate history shows that, time and time again.

I guess I was thrown off by your inclusion of TIFs. They have pretty much exclusively been used for improving urban environments in a way that the free market would not provide for.

At any rate... I actually think we are making a similar points, but because we are looking from different angles, it makes it feel like we are strongly disagreeing.

You think development regs should be softened downtown. I think they should be strengthened in the suburbs. The economic pressures of both are the same... promoting more and better downtown development.

I think the biggest difference is that you are trying to make the connection that because downtown development regulations are strict, all government involvement should be removed. You have to take the bad with the good. The problem is that if you remove government from the picture, then there is no Hyatt, Peace Center, Liberty Park, Fluor Field, Swamp Rabbit Trail, and most new office development (if it even happens) ends up in the suburbs due the expense of downtown parking which is largely funded by the city.

The reality is that governmental involvement assists all development, not just suburban development. Could things be done better? Sure. But the good far outweighs the bad. And it's not close.

For what it's worth... I have no problem with impact fees. In fact, I think it could play a vital role in communicating the true cost of suburban development. However, governments are overburdened as it is with responding to the needs of new development. Unfortunately, I'm fairly certain that the inclusion of impact fee would be viewed negatively by the anti-government crowd, as it would be branded as "just another tax."

Edited by breed

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I guess I was thrown off by your inclusion of TIFs. They have pretty much exclusively been used for improving urban environments in a way that the free market would not provide for.

At any rate... I actually think we are making a similar points, but because we are looking from different angles, it makes it feel like we are strongly disagreeing.

You think development regs should be softened downtown. I think they should be strengthened in the suburbs. The economic pressures of both are the same... promoting more and better downtown development.

I think the biggest difference is that you are trying to make the connection that because downtown development regulations are strict, all government involvement should be removed.

Thanks for your well-reasoned and good points. My main concerns are (1) zoning in all areas, except the CBD, that requires low-density sprawl and (2) subsidies for suburban development through road and infrastructure improvements. Get government out of the scene by eliminating those two things and downtown would get more development.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again, louder and more aggressively if I have to - generic chain stores and restaurants do not make a city great. The turn it into just another mall-city. That's not what makes Greenville good. If you want that, you have dozens of other places in this country that will offer you Targets and Gaps and whatever other mediocrity you desire. Please, leave downtown Greenville alone.

Thank you!! That is exactly the point I was trying to make when I said I was disappointed that there would be a CVS on Main Street. I don't dislike CVS; I just see it as a homogenization of Downtown Greenville. I'd like to retain the unique character rather than to bring in stores that can be found on any SUBurban corner.

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Thank you!! That is exactly the point I was trying to make when I said I was disappointed that there would be a CVS on Main Street. I don't dislike CVS; I just see it as a homogenization of Downtown Greenville. I'd like to retain the unique character rather than to bring in stores that can be found on any SUBurban corner.

I'm not sure how something existing in the suburbs makes it automatically bad to also exist downtown. That's the way you make it sound. But, I think there's a distinction in your argument that you're not conveying, and I might agree with. However, I don't agree that stores should be kept out because they have other locations of suburban nature. :whistling:

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Thank you!! That is exactly the point I was trying to make when I said I was disappointed that there would be a CVS on Main Street. I don't dislike CVS; I just see it as a homogenization of Downtown Greenville. I'd like to retain the unique character rather than to bring in stores that can be found on any SUBurban corner.

I respect your position and your arguments. As someone who loves chains- I don't shop at locally-owned stores except on rare occasions (such as at Rush Wilson)- I have no problem with locally-owned stores being downtown, and even with most of Main St. being locally-owned. Today's chain retailers probably want construction built to specifications that most Main St. storefronts can't meet anyhow- if large chains want to go to developments such as McBee Station and in new construction around downtown, rather than on Main St., I'm fine with it. I just like being able to do all of my errands downtown, on foot, and in Greenville that's doable, but it's tough with no Target.

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I'm not sure how something existing in the suburbs makes it automatically bad to also exist downtown. That's the way you make it sound. But, I think there's a distinction in your argument that you're not conveying, and I might agree with. However, I don't agree that stores should be kept out because they have other locations of suburban nature. :whistling:

Somehow your initial comment struck me as a bit of a straw man/fallacy of exaggeration argument, but that may not have been what you intended. I certainly would not say, nor even imply, that it is "bad" for some particular business to exist downtown. What I meant to convey is that I was "disappointed" (the word I actually used) that a CVS would be locating on Main Street itself, and I offered that as an example of the previous writer's comment that there are differences in character between suburban and urban/downtown settings. To clarify further, I'd like to preserve the unique character and feel that currently exist specifically on G'ville's Main Street and in its immediate vicinity rather than see that particular segment of downtown succumb to creeping suburbanization.

I do not oppose the presence of national chains and big-box retailers in downtown Greenville's central business district, but I do hope we can retain the unique ambiance of Greenville's MAIN STREET area [deliberate emphasis added]. I'm not native (and few people are these days), but the charm and vitality of Main Street make up a large part of what brought me here by choice some 13 years ago.

I respect your position and your arguments. As someone who loves chains- I don't shop at locally-owned stores except on rare occasions (such as at Rush Wilson)- I have no problem with locally-owned stores being downtown, and even with most of Main St. being locally-owned. Today's chain retailers probably want construction built to specifications that most Main St. storefronts can't meet anyhow- if large chains want to go to developments such as McBee Station and in new construction around downtown, rather than on Main St., I'm fine with it. I just like being able to do all of my errands downtown, on foot, and in Greenville that's doable, but it's tough with no Target.

I can think of a number of national retailers, as well as major regional retailers, that would be very worthwhile in the near vicinity of, though not directly on, Greenville's tree-lined (and already traffic-clogged) Main Street. Just the other day I drove past a property at the corner of W. Washington St. and W. Broad St. where Chuck Orr used to have his bumper and glass business. Seeing the for sale/for lease signs made me think that the property might make a good location for a CVS type of store that would be within walking distance of Main Street while being very accessible by vehicle without adding further congestion to Main Street. It also would help serve the W. Washington area community, which is recovering from its former blight and could well appreciate access to such a retailer that the residents do not currently have. Meanwhile, as the W. Washington area continues to rebound, with the help of the city, other development opportunities in the area might become more attractive, spurred by a new retail presence on that gateway corner.

Incidentally, while we are discussing downtown retail, it should be noted that tonight's Planning and Zoning agenda includes a reading of the rezoning plan for the so-called South Academy Street Corridor, which is part of a planned expansion of the C4 Central Business District (CBD) designation in the downtown area, consistent with the Downtown Master Plan etc. (See http://www.greenvillesc.gov/PlanningZoning/PlanningApplications/Applications/2010/AUGUST/PlanningCommission/8-12-2010/Z-14-2010-SouthAcade4myRezoning.pdf) The area in question - bordered by Buncomb St., Academy St., Butler Ave., W. Broad and Westfield St, - is currently zoned S1 (Service District) and/or C3 (General Commercial).

If approved, rezoning of the South Academy Street Corridor could make a significant land area adjacent to the current CBD more attractive for mixed-use development while still permitting retail businesses the type of which we are currently discussing. Somewhere within that corridor, or adjacent to it, I wouldn't mind seeing a grocery store, to augment features already available at the Publix at McBee Station. And while I might be hard-pressed to envision a Super Target in the CBD, something along the scale of a Target store of earlier days might fit nicely (just as the Publix is scaled down from the size of other stores situated in more suburban strip malls). Meanwhile, I can still hold out hope for a real Dean & Deluca, or perhaps a second Trader Joe's. :rolleyes:

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Somehow your initial comment struck me as a bit of a straw man/fallacy of exaggeration argument, but that may not have been what you intended. I certainly would not say, nor even imply, that it is "bad" for some particular business to exist downtown. What I meant to convey is that I was "disappointed" (the word I actually used) that a CVS would be locating on Main Street itself, and I offered that as an example of the previous writer's comment that there are differences in character between suburban and urban/downtown settings. To clarify further, I'd like to preserve the unique character and feel that currently exist specifically on G'ville's Main Street and in its immediate vicinity rather than see that particular segment of downtown succumb to creeping suburbanization.

I do not oppose the presence of national chains and big-box retailers in downtown Greenville's central business district, but I do hope we can retain the unique ambiance of Greenville's MAIN STREET area [deliberate emphasis added]. I'm not native (and few people are these days), but the charm and vitality of Main Street make up a large part of what brought me here by choice some 13 years ago.

Despite who occupies the buildings, as long as the SCALE of the actual structures themselves remain consistent with its surroundings (in both height AND width), then we're keeping the current built environment vibe. Furthermore, as long as businesses (retail, service, or restaurant) continue to be ones that actively engage with pedestrians through their windows and doors, then we're going to be keeping the commerce vibe, as well. CVS and its location seems to offer both: a consistent built scale, and a level of commerce that already exists. I think it's only going to compliment the urban core.

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Rumor has it that Sephora is seriously looking at the Greenville market for its first store in South Carolina. The sites I heard mentioned were downtown, Haywood Mall, and the Shops at Greenridge. They were supposedly going to be part of Magnolia Park and I suppose they (like others) got tired of waiting.

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The DPC's agenda has a new establishment coming to the corner of Coffee Street and Brown Street, across from the Corner Pocket. Hoops and Hops is the name.

I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of their appearance on the DPC application, but I'll keep an open mind for now. But, I AM excited about the fact that this will add even more night scene establishments to Brown Street!!

PS- how is the Carolina Ale House progressing? :dontknow:

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The DPC's agenda has a new establishment coming to the corner of Coffee Street and Brown Street, across from the Corner Pocket. Hoops and Hops is the name.

I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of their appearance on the DPC application, but I'll keep an open mind for now. But, I AM excited about the fact that this will add even more night scene establishments to Brown Street!!

PS- how is the Carolina Ale House progressing? :dontknow:

That is a really lame name. Is this a place to play/watch basketball and drink beer? Is it a sports bar? Is it a place to hula hoop while drinking beer? :lol:

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