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GvilleSC

"It's only Main Street..."

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Recently in The State, suggestions for improving downtown Columbia were discussed. Of course, Greenville was brought into the fray both as a model and in negative light. Link.

Downtown Greenville has Main Street. That

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I think it boils down to ignorance regarding Greenville's urban core. We all know that it's much more than "Main Street." In fact, any first-time visitor should quickly recognize that Main Street is simply the artery that connects several of our nodes of activity (North End, City Center, and the West End). Many Columbia boosters try to downplay this by stating that these areas are all congruent with one another, but that is precisely why downtown Greenville works. It's walkable, so you can easily get from one node (e.g., downtown/City Center) to another node (e.g., West End) with only your two feet. Despite the fact that these two areas are directly beside one another, these two areas are also very distinct in terms of offerings, vibes, building heights, etc. The North End is developing its own identity as well and is slowly coming into its own. Heritage Green/Pete Hollis also has loads of potential and is certainly a very easy walk to the aforementioned areas. Such connectivity is the entire point of quality urban development, and anyone who has posted on UP for a month or more should appreciate that!

On the other hand, in Columbia you have the nodes they like to brag about (Five Points, Main Street, Vista). The problem there is that they are not connected, and they are not pedestrian friendly. One of their posters on another forum claimed that he regularly walks from the Vista to Five Points, but this walk is 1-2 miles and takes you through some very pedestrian unfriendly areas (not to mention some dangerous areas, depending on your route). Columbia boosters like to brag because these are more separated (and in their minds, more "distinct" than ours in Greenville are). But again, from an urbanity perspective the large separation between their nodes of activity are a huge disadvantage. Sure, their urban core might "feel" bigger, but if wide roads and plentiful surface parking lots are providing that separation then it doesn't seem like much to be bragging about.

We know we have a great thing going in Greenville's urban core. Our CBD is developing in a very well-planned, pedestrian-friendly way we can all be proud of. It's MUCH more than "Main Street" and I hope city leaders and residents alike will do their part to illustrate that to those who might not have as much experience with our city. :)

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Maybe you guys should write a letter to the editor of The State.

However, I think it's a little understandable why some say this. For instance, the last time I was in downtown Greenville was at Artisphere last year. While I did see walkable areas not along Main, I saw very few people in those areas. Perhaps that's because festival events are more concentrated in the West End and some of those businesses in those areas aren't open on Saturdays.

Judging from the maps GvilleSC posted, to me, the pedestrian-friendly areas are heavily relegated to Main Street itself. At this point, the only area that looks more district-oriented is Augusta Street near the intersection of Main. I think that until there is some serious east-west activity going on (which looks like it might be shaping up along McBee), there will always be the perception that downtown Greenville is Main Street.

As far as Columbia goes, it's true that the nodes aren't connected, but they are pedestrian-friendly (I think Five Points is the most pedestrian-friendly of the bunch).

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Late last year or earlier this year Sasaki and Assoc. presented their plan for Greenville's sprawl for the future and one of the biggest points in their plan (with a great map to visualize it) was spreading the "green" of trees, wide pedestrian boardwalks, planted medians, etc. along all of the side streets around the core of Main St. downtown. If you look at the parks aerially around downtown, there is almost a "ring" of Green through what will be Meadowbrook, Linky Stone Park, Falls Park, Cleveland Park, Richland, McPherson Park and Heritage Green. They are definitely planning to spread the look and feel of what has been successful on Main St. to the surrounding streets.

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Of course, my limited experience in Five Points limits my ability to make a truly accurate map along the same lines as the City Center and West End maps that I made for Greenville, but nonetheless we can improvise with what I have.

Despite not knowing where every shop and restaurant is located, I think it's safe to say that Five Points is only Harden Street:

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Would anyone disagree when its based on the same basis that Greenville is only Main Street?

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I would liken the distance and separation from other areas in the urban core of Five Points to West Greenville's village area in Greenville. Of course, it's still undergoing redevelopment and rebirth, and is overshadowed by Greenville's Main Street. Oh, by the way, Main Street becomes Pendleton Street, which is the main drag in West Greenville... Hmmm, are we suppose to just consider it a part of the same street, and therefore, much like the West End, it doesn't exist as a separate entity? :dontknow:

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Even if you say Greenville is only Main St. you still have to consider that it has about 15 blocks of continuous activity now that it extends to the ballpark. That isn't including the streetscape on Main by the Towers East and the condos across the street. Also there is regular pedestrian traffic to the BiLo on the next block. And that doesn't include any of the side blocks. I think Augusta St., Riverplace,Poinsett Corners, McBee Village, Heritage Green, etc. should all be considered too.

Columbia has a bigger downtown overall but I don't know of any comparable active stretch. I have some relatives living in the Columbia area who have been surprised and impressed by the crowds and retail choices available here. I didn't ask but my impression was they thought Greenville was busier. It is certainly possible that people are more spread out over the Columbia hot spots.

Krazeeboi mentioned that few people were walking on the side streets. That is true but a lot of that is the result of DT Greenville's design. Most of the parking is in surface lots or parking garages 1 or 2 blocks off and flanking Main. And most of the retail shops and restaurants are on Main or just around the corner on crossing streets. The result is that people are focused and concentrated onto Main - which is good. That is part of the reason it is busy. There are businesses and offices 2 or 3 blocks off Main but their patrons will normally go right to the buildings. Or park next to the destination. Main St. is the promenade.

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GvilleSC, there's no denying that Harden Street constitutes the main "spine" of Five Points, even though you might have missed a few retail spots (and Devine Street, which feeds into Five Points, has lots of shops and restaurants lining it). But I think the layout of Five Points makes it feel a bit more district-oriented, with several streets all converging onto two intersections. Personally, I'm very well aware that the West End is a district; I've always said that it resembles the Vista in Columbia, and until fairly recently, one could say that the Vista was only Gervais Street. For the most part, I think it can be a bit easier to create vibrancy with the Main Street model that Greenville has employed: concentrating the activity into one corridor and then letting it naturally spread out. However, every city has its own unique set of circumstances and has developed differently. I happen to think that the way that downtown Greenville has developed was the best in its situation, and that for the most part, the manner in which downtown Columbia has developed was the best in its situation.

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For what it's worth, here's a more comprehensive map of downtown Greenville.

The yellow areas are still the locations of pedestrian oriented storefronts.

The red strip is downtown's original focus area of revitalization to show the growth in the past 25 years.

The blue areas are "extremely" pedestrian friendly areas. Any of these streets on the map are walkable, but the ones highlighted with the blue overlay are more so due to building uses, City's streetscaping, etc.

2528701007_46bb5ee85b.jpg

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Given the choice of multiple "unconnected" districts/villages/neighborhoods or one long, linear, continuous connected zone made up of districts/villages/neighborhoods, I'll take the connectivity. Greenville has got it right. It started with City Center, then spread along the same street to West End and now spreading along the same street to North End. Multiple districts, connected by a linear, pedestrian friendly street. Who could ask for a better layout? Connectivity is one of the key successes of Greenville's years or redevelopment. A well connected city leaves a much greater impression on visitors than separate districts within a city. Visitors leave saying "Greenville is so cute" plain and simple vs. a diluted, qualifying statement saying "There is this really cute area near downtown, to the West....I think it was called West End....it was a great area".

Villages and districts are great as long as they have connectivity and around a strong, vibrant core (Portland and Seattle are examples of this). A city that has districts on the perimeters of a lackluster core however, struggles more for a cohesive image, impact, positive impression, walkability, etc. Birmingham, my home, is a city that fits this example. Birmingham has a couple of great urban districts....Five Points South and the Lakeview District. Both districts are cute, vibrant and fun to be in, BUT they are not connected. If you want to go beyond one single district, you have to jump in a car. The distance, anti-pedestrian obstacles, and type of neighborhhods in between the districts forces the use of a car. With that in mind, these districts may as well be suburbs. Birmingham's downtown core consist of a major street, 20th Street, which is their version of Main Street, only it has very few restaurants, shops, pedestrians, etc and is a dead street after 5:00. The street consist of 9 to 5 office workers and office buildings.

A city is just like a human body IMO. Anyone ever taken Pilates? What does it teach you for healthy living? "Strengthen your CORE" A city is the same......get a strong core happening and the strength will radiate out. Greenville is proof of the success of that concept.

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Villages and districts are great as long as they have connectivity and around a strong, vibrant core (Portland and Seattle are examples of this). A city that has districts on the perimeters of a lackluster core however, struggles more for a cohesive image, impact, positive impression, walkability, etc.

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This is certainly true in several instances, but I can think of one notable exception: Washington, DC. Now downtown DC has an extremely healthy office market, is very urban, and the historic architecture is wonderful. However, land prices tend to make residential development unfeasible; office development gives developers more bang for their buck. And since residential is lacking, so are shopping options. After working hours, downtown DC is basically deserted and can't hold a candle to neighborhoods like Adam's Morgan. Now I know this is probably a unique example due to DC's height restrictions and such, but it is certainly an example of a city that's known overall as a vibrant city mostly due to its neighborhoods and not its core.

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Perhaps we disagree on what defines the DC metro area's core, but I consider the District itself to be DC's core and the outlying areas in Maryland and Virginia to be its suburbs. Adams Morgan is still a DC mailing address, and only a matter of blocks up 18th Street from Dupont Circle. This is excellent connectivity, and very walkable (I have done it many times). I don't see how you can disagree that this is very much part of DC's core.

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If Greenville were a human body, the Pinnacle would be our phantom limb.

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The "bones" were already in place for Main Street and the West End, and they were built connected.

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I'm sure it's not what you meant by it, but the way you state it makes it sound like 'Greenville had it easy'. I'm sure the millions of dollars spent on the West End's revitalization alone, and the leaders who spent countless hours examining other cities and its own successes would beg to differ. :)

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Here's some pictures from tonight of anything but Main Street:

Spring Street:

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River Street:

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Broad Street:

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Laurens Street:

new Courtyard by Marriott under construction in the foreground:

2594462530_b8276d83b1.jpg

2594462022_57f3fe6822.jpg

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