Smart growth stories: Growth that benefits all residents on Greenville, SC’s West Side

A view of the Reedy River from downtown Greenville. Photo courtesy of Walter Ezell.

Greenville, South Carolina’s West Side is growing rapidly, and planners in the city are using a comprehensive plan to make sure that growth creates better neighborhoods for all the area’s residents.

Currently, the West Side is a cluster of low- to moderate-income neighborhoods adjacent to Greenville’s downtown. Planners from the City of Greenville are considering a number of different strategies to better link the West Side with the rest of the city, while still ensuring that current residents can reap the benefits of the growth that will ensue.

“The West Side is adjacent to downtown so it has a lot of potential,” says Greenville planner Wayne Leftwich. “Growth is heading this way, with a lot of interest from potential developers in this area, and we want to make sure that when these things happen, they’re not disconnected from current residents.”

City planners are bringing concerted planning to the West Side’s robust growth, and are working to ensure that new development meets the needs of as many residents as possible. To achieve that goal, planners are developing a comprehensive plan for the West Side and its three main commercial corridors.

“We are thinking about the potential for revitalization and economic development, because the West Side neighborhoods are not as viable as they could be,” Leftwich says. “Our hope for the plan is to look at how we can make connections between the neighborhoods in this area, but also with the rest of the city.”

One proposed solution is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route, which would enhance connectivity within the West Side while also helping residents get to jobs and other communities throughout the Greenville area. The proposed route would link the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) corridor – an up and coming area that is creating new jobs with help from the university – with downtown and the West Side area, allowing development and economic growth to be integrated into the entire area. A BRT and transit-oriented development feasibility study has been drafted and will be completed soon.

Leaders in the planning process are getting feedback from community as their work progresses. By maintaining open channels of communication with neighborhood associations, the city hopes to integrate neighborhood concerns into every step of the process. The city has also formed a strong education and outreach program. coordinated by the Livability Educator, a position specially created through the HUD Community Challenge and DOT TIGER II grants utilized by the City of Greenville.

Currently, the Livability Educator is creating a full curriculum for local elementary aged children based on the idea of community involvement, emphasizing the complex interaction between residential, transportation and work choices, and overall quality of life. The city has also tasked the Livability Educator with communicating with more of the community and a speaker series is in the works, intended to reach adults in the community as well.

By understanding the fundamental role community members can have in shaping their own neighborhoods, planners in Greenville are facilitating new development, , working to improve the city’s overall economic prospects while also serving the diverse needs and interests of present and future residents.

“We want economic growth to happen in that area,” Leftwich says. “We want it to be revitalized so that current residents are able to benefit from development and are able to benefit from development and are integrated into it.”