By Wesley Brown
Thursday, December 13, 2012
After picking up his daily cup of coffee at The Scullery Tuesday, Michael Glenn said he turned the corner and as usual, every parking space on Evans Street already was occupied.
Courthouse customers, downtown business owners and employees had all claimed a spot on Fourth Street, where Glenn and his parents own Jefferson’s, a home boutique housed on the first floor of the historic Blount Harvey Building.
While normally a distressing sight, the rows of cars did not phase Glenn.
Less than 12 hours earlier, he and a handful of business owners gave the City Council a standing ovation, after the board in one sweeping vote gave new hope to the more than 80 entrepreneurs who operate in downtown Greenville.
The council approved a plan to build a four-story parking deck at the corner of Cotanche and Fourth streets — where the city-owned Moseley Lot now sits — in a landmark move elected leaders and advocates called “transformational.”
“Finally, an answer to the question of parking,” Glenn said. “It’s generally the first one I get asked by someone considering to relocate a business downtown.”
Glenn said he realizes the $3.8 million, 256-space parking deck will greatly affect the landscape of the city center, by providing a “much-needed utility” for existing businesses.
Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas hailed the project more for its intangibles. He said that it shows to the region, state and nation there is a change afoot in Greenville, where job growth and a vibrant downtown is top priority.
Many business owners would agree.
A majority of the tenants and property owners downtown — 84 out of 86 — are in favor of a parking deck at the Moseley Lot, according to a petition organized by Uptown Greenville, the nonprofit chartered to revitalize downtown.
Bianca Shoneman, executive director of Uptown Greenville, said that concerns remain regarding the safety, design, access, fee structure, use, maintenance and management of the parking deck.
On Monday, the nonprofit’s 25-person board of directors offered to send representatives and staff to serve on a committee led by the city. Its goal was to ensure that owners and tenants in the downtown district, especially those in closest proximity to the parking deck, have their concerns addressed and remain informed throughout construction and design.
“As our city continues to grow we must continue to be proactive in development to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure to support the very downtown activities and enterprises,” Shoneman said.
It is unknown if the city will take the offer. But Uptown Greenville will represent everyone, including Nelle Hayes, owner of the Art Room on Evans Street.
Hayes’ great-grandfather — whose estate she has controlling interest over — built the building where she has operated a gallery and studio for four years and has lived for the past two.
Hayes said she is thrilled about the new visitors center, which is expected to be jointly constructed with the parking deck. However, she worries about people coming to Greenville who may have to navigate a parking deck and an alley to get to downtown.
Hayes remembers Greenville being named by the Atlanta Constitution in 1918 as one of the South’s 10 most beautiful small towns. She does not want to further harm that distinction.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” Hayes said.
Glenn said the addition will make a lasting impression.
In May of 2005, Glenn, his father, Ed, and mother, Jef, returned their family’s florist shop to the downtown area. With more than 6,000 square-feet of display and design space, the building’s downstairs showroom was a perfect fit for the company.
The business made its way back from the south side of the city to a spot close to where it opened 64 years ago, the family said. But the move has not been all roses. Parking has been a struggle since day one.
Between the florist, hair salon, jewelry store, interior design firm, wine bar, yoga and spa, employees at the Blount Harvey Building need no less than 20 parking spaces every working day, “and that is before a single customer finds a spot,” Glenn said.
“This is only one roof, imagine the possibilities for other buildings downtown,” he said, adding the new visitor center and redevelopment of the downtown theater will only grow demand.
Glenn said his family rarely has complained, nor have its customers made much fuss about the seemingly endless hunt for parking.
But David Carpenter, a member of Uptown Greenville’s board of directors, said in going door to door to circulate the nonprofit’s petition, downtown businessmen and women said the “lack of available and convenient parking” is one of the main deterrents for people frequenting their shops and offices.
Carpenter said he spoke to about 60 property owners to get their thoughts on the project and its location. The responses, he said, ranged from “ecstatic to moderately ecstatic.”
One that stood out was Marie Bradshaw, a woman in her 80s whose family owns multiple properties downtown, including Marie’s Clothing on Evans Street.
Bradshaw agreed to sign the petition, telling Carpenter she has been downtown 50 years and that a parking deck “could really make a difference.”
Before he left, Bradshaw asked Carpenter if he really thought it was “going to happen this time.”
“I think so,” Carpenter said.
Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.