A new streetscape in Greer, South Carolina has brought the downtown back to life with an extensive renovation, centered on catering to pedestrians, not cars. Designers used a combination of Pine Hall Brick Rumbled pavers in a range of colors (see current Rumbled options here) for folks of all ages and abilities to enjoy the revitalized downtown, day and night. (Photo above and photo below by Kimley-Horn)
The downtown in Greer had gone the way of so many other downtowns across the country.
Both empty and abandoned, something clearly needed to be done.
And it was.
The Greer Station Revitalization Project was more than just an aesthetic treatment, a coat of paint and a few repairs of windows and doorways in a downtown. Instead, it was the culmination of years of planning to revitalize a blighted historic urban core that carried that promise of renewal, vibrancy and economic growth. A paver streetscape is key.
Photo: Kris Deke, Landscape Forms
Streetscape is part of an expansive and comprehensive make-over
Nine streets in the downtown core area were slated for improvement, both in terms of appearance and better connectivity for all kinds of transportation, with an emphasis on pedestrians. Central to the improvement is Trade Street, which was converted into a flexible shared/festival street which allows the City to close the street to vehicles for special events.
The street cross-section reduces lane widths and improves access for all users, which provides a more walkable and bikeable downtown.
The old street was replaced by a reinforced concrete sub slab topped by clay brick pavers. Multiple materials were re-used on the project, including the 100-year-old granite curbs that ran along the streets, which were reclaimed and re-used to edge planters that were designed in the larger open spaces at Main Street.
Photos: Kris Deke, Landscape Forms
Out of sight, underground electrical hookups power music and display elements during live events, which enables street vendors to use electrical outlets, instead of running long extension cords to businesses. Additionally, the design team worked with a street furnishings manufacturer to make light fixtures similar to the historic gas lanterns that once lined the street – while also providing structural support for the tension cables that hold up the canopy of festival lights overhead.
Landscape design firm Kimley-Horn said that throughout the design, the idea was to provide a simple palette that would add vibrancy and texture but would also create a clean canvas for vertical amenities, including decorative lighting, seating, bollards and landscaping. The goal, given that Greer is a historic railroad town, was to use authentic materials to include wood, steel and brick to allow the building architecture and historic character of Trade Street to blend into its natural setting.
On the ground, the clay pavers were used because they complemented the historic character of the surrounding community, provided a warm calming effect, and brought back the way the street appeared when it was part of a vibrant community a century ago.
Is it a success?
If being successful means turning a profit, then it was. In all, $12 million was invested in the streetscape improvements. So far, more than $120 million has been reinvested.
Perhaps more importantly, the downtown is vibrant and thriving once again – and the success in Greer, with the re-design of streets that can be used by cars, then converted for pedestrian use – shows that it can be done successfully in other places.
Designers and city leaders involved in the Greer project learned that a focus on sustainability, innovation and community can pay dividends.
But more than a return on investment, success requires that the timing be right.
We’ll let you be the judge on that.
Once closed, the street isn’t a street. It’s a plaza with no additional accommodations required for those with disabilities.
As the street opened to the public for the first time, Covid was shutting the world down.
Amid what could have been disaster, the Trade Street re-design allowed the businesses and restaurants to move into the street and continue operating. The city acted immediately, creating programming and themed events such as Dine on Trade.
These programs are still flourishing today.
And the heart of Greer is beating again.