GREENVILLE — It’s one of the most-prominent remaining pieces of Main Street left to be developed in the West End, and it appears the path is clear for what will be a large-scale luxury apartment complex across from Fluor Field.
The 3.1-acre site, currently home to the West End Community Development Center and a few parking lots, is in the early stages of the approval process.
The city’s Design Review Board responded favorably April 1 during an informal review of the project that proposes 250 apartments, a parking garage and retail space. The informal review is an initial step in the approval process. The board must ultimately approve the project’s design because it lies within a historic, downtown district along South Markley Street.
Board members expressed support for the look of the proposal by Charlotte-based SunCap Property Group. That support was somewhat at odds with the city’s planning staff, which felt the complex was too monolithic.
City Planning Director Jay Graham said the project should be broken up into smaller buildings to allow for more pedestrian access, which would be in keeping with how the rest of how downtown has been carefully laid out over the past three decades.
The city’s planning staff repeatedly expressed concerns about the presence of a single large building and the developer returned with revisions that didn’t address the concern, Graham said.
“Because this current design does not react to what’s been making Greenville successful for the past 30 years,” he said, “staff cannot support this design.”
However, board members didn’t express such reservations. Board chairwoman Carmella Cioffi said she was surprised the planning staff would have such strong objections. The project’s design interacts well with Main Street, she said.
“I honestly think it engages nicely with the street in my personal opinion,” Cioffi said.
Much of the property belongs to Allen Temple AME Church, a historically Black congregation that has been at the center of the community’s cultural and political life for decades. The church was an anchor in the West End before the arrival of Fluor Field and the hundreds of millions of dollars invested since.
The project would be the latest addition to the development of a broader entertainment district stretching through the “Jackson Way” reimaging of Field Street to the site of the Greenville Transit Authority, which is currently on the market.
The project’s developer, David Lee, expressed concern that breaking up the project would create dark alleys and cut into the 560-space parking garage that would provide parking beyond the development to public overflow parking in the West End.
In an interview with The Post and Courier before the informal hearing, Lee said the $70 million project would focus on getting the retail aspect right, even if it has to be subsidized.
“We know if we get retail right, the project is going to be phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve got one chance to get that right.”
The developer has reached out to local restaurateurs and, Lee said, “we think we can get them excited about it.”
SunCap has engaged the community since the time it put the property under contract late last year, including Allen Temple’s pastor, the Rev. James Speed.
The project doesn’t include a provision for affordable housing, like recent projects that have sought city approval. The proceeds of the property sale will continue Allen Temple’s efforts to provide affordable housing, Lee said.
“We feel like what we’re giving for the land, it will allow them to go out and do more of that,” Lee said. “Our economics don’t support an affordable component, but we’re not ruling it out.”
The next step in the project is for the developer to file a formal application for approval that will be subject to a vote by the Design Review Board.
Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.