October 4, 2017
For the core group of city planners, economic development officials and merchants who have built Uptown Greenwood into the vibrant destination spot it is today, that’s an adjective that is frequently deployed.
Now, it’s no longer a matter of opinion.
On Wednesday, the American Planning Association named Uptown Greenwood one of five “Great Neighborhoods” for 2017, joining an exclusive list of places across the country honored for creating a unique cultural identity using sustainable practices that foster economic growth.
“To receive a designation from the American Planning Association that recognizes Uptown Greenwood in the same class as 275 other great places in America, that’s a pretty significant endorsement,” City Manager Charlie Barrineau said. “To me, though, the validation has already been received with the many, many small businesses, eateries and boutiques that have opened in Uptown Greenwood over the last decade.”
Ten other locales were named a “great street” or “great public place” by the APA.
In all, the American Planning Association has singled out 260 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces during the past 10 years with its “great places” designation, with just five others in South Carolina: Broad and King streets in Charleston, the city’s Waterfront Park, the Beaufort Historic District and Main Street in Greenville.
“We take great pride that the American Planning Association has named Uptown Greenwood, South Carolina as one of the Great Neighborhoods in the nation. Uptown is the heart and soul of our community,” Mayor Welborn Adams said. “This award underscores Greenwood’s commitment to long-term planning, investment in cultural and historic interests, and a vision for our future.”
Uptown Greenwood as it is today has its origins in a 2003 City Center Master Plan that sought to transform the once-major railroad artery into a mixed-use enclave to support local business, new residential growth and tourism.
The 12-page application in support of Uptown Greenwood’s nomination describes an effort to keep the 100-acre district as much in line with its historic origins as possible while implementing modern tax incentives and planning tools to create a public art venue, social center and revenue stream for the city.
“Uptown Greenwood is now one of the most vibrant downtown areas in the South and one of the best success stories in downtown redevelopment in South Carolina,” the application said.
In March, the Uptown district expanded its borders for the since time since its 1984 creation when the Shoppes at Hampton Plaza were added to the 13-block district, which has a taxable base of $25 million.
And in September, Barrineau told the City Council that Greenwood’s hospitality tax — which launched in 2006 — has generated more than $15.5 million for community enhancement projects in Uptown.
This summer, the City Council unanimously approved a request by Arts Center Director Anne Craig to pursue a cultural arts district designation by the state Arts Commission.
Uptown’s two major summer events, the festivals of Discovery and Flowers, brought in more than $8 million in economic impact this year.
City/County Planner Phil Lindler, a member of the APA and past president of its South Carolina chapter, said being named a “great neighborhood” reinforces the decision by officials to focus on Uptown as a hub of commerce.
“This is the highest honor our professional organization presents to a community, street or neighborhood. It is important to note that this award is in recognition to those individuals throughout the number of decades that have worked for and with the city to make Uptown what it is today,” Lindler said.
Frank Wideman, a member of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance board of directors and president of the Self Family Foundation, said Uptown Greenwood’s proven success has made it easier to attract new and diverse investments over the years.
The foundation played a key role in bringing the Arts Center to the Federal Building with a $1.75 million grant.
“We knew that our investments were having a significant impact,” Wideman said. “The challenge was to get people to come to the town center, which led to things like the Mill House and the wine shop, and everything just built on each other.”
The application echoes Wideman’s assessment.
“The public has truly taken ownership of their Uptown,” it said.