Camperdown will help spark more downtown change

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The former site of the Greenville News, demolished in June 2017, will be incorporated into the mixed-use Camperdown development downtown. Rendering by Centennial American Properties.

It’s nowhere near completion. But Camperdown, the “live, work, play” development spearheaded by Centennial American Properties at South Main and East Broad streets in Greenville, will serve as the thread that binds nearby streetscapes together in new and interesting ways, according to Centennial CEO David Glenn.

Glenn, an early proponent of the adaptive reuse of historic mills and a leading figure in the creation of Fluor Field, has already seen how cutting-edge projects can transform commercial and civic activity in adjacent neighborhoods.

Scheduled to open in the first half of 2020, Camperdown will feature a 196-room AC Hotel; an office tower topped by 18 luxury condominiums overlooking the Liberty Bridge; 217 apartment units; 170,000 square feet of office space; 80,000 square feet of retail; and a 609-space parking garage, according to updated project figures.

The office tower has been christened “Falls Tower” and a logo for the entire complex has just been released. Camperdown will also feature the largest public plaza in the city’s history, “probably three times larger than any plaza we have in Greenville right now,” Glenn said.

The entire project is rising in stages on a 4-acre site, with The Greenville News now relocated within its footprint.

“There’s a record we hold for highest per-acre price ever paid in downtown Greenville” — $13.25 million — “so we had to make very good use of it,” Glenn said recently in reviewing the project’s breadth and potential impact. Glenn and his investors said they are pleased that interest among key tenants is accelerating.

While not naming names, Glenn and project manager Jason Tankersley confirmed that one national company has signed a lease to open a regional office at Camperdown and that a firm with an international footprint will bring a “shared-workspace environment” to the complex.

“Their model is very attractive to a millennial, entrepreneurial-type base, and we’re  designing the space around them,” Tankersley said. “They’ve done this in major markets all over the country.”

As previously announced, Bank of America has already signed a long-term lease and will consolidate its current offices at 101 N. Main St. and 300 N. Main St. into Camperdown.

As for retail, “These tenants are more food and entertainment-type tenants that would go along with a plaza … but as far as being complete ‘destination’ tenants where you go for a specific reason to that place to shop, I don’t know that there’ll be that many of those,” Glenn said.

“Retailers usually don’t like to go out front, especially in these times, and I refer to these times because of Amazon and things like that,” he explained; yet, he said, “we’re well down the road with probably half of our tenants.”

On the food front, plans call for Falls Tower to house two restaurants, each at about 10,000 square feet. Elsewhere on the site, Larkin’s Restaurants has signed for a location in the new Greenville News building.

From mall to neighborhoods

Glenn founded Centennial American Properties in 1976 after getting his feet wet on the Haywood Mall project while working for Thomas Cousins, a developer who shaped much of Atlanta’s skyline.

For Haywood Mall, “I assembled all the land, I did zoning, permitting, and I got to learn a lot from a really professional guy,” Glenn remembers.

After stepping out on his own, Glenn’s leadership on such projects as the SunTrust/GHS building, the Erwin Penland buildings, The Lofts at Mills Mill, and Fluor Field helped introduce fresh development concepts to Greenville as it evolved from a quiet Southern town into a modern Southern city.

The SunTrust and EP buildings, the first big projects done off Main Street, were game-changers.

“I think now you see people going to Academy Street and off of Main Street, not just Main Street, because things can be successful,” Glenn observed. “I think it was important to do that.”

In 2004, Centennial converted Mills Mill to condominiums, accenting living space with 16-foot ceilings, 9-foot window bands, heart-of-pine beams, and exposed red brick walls, and in the process made subsequent conversions of textile mills and properties around them more viable.

“That helped start a trend, and I was very proud of that,” Glenn said.

Brick became his signature of sorts. When Whole Foods Market collaborated with Centennial for a store on Woodruff Road, Glenn’s vision included the reuse of about 50,000 bricks from former mills to recognize the textile industry’s importance to the region.

Still more bricks were trucked in for The Field House and stadium at Fluor Field. The Fluor projects helped neighboring properties in and around the West End take off, more so than he expected.

“Putting the baseball field downtown, it wasn’t just a baseball field. It’s an entertainment venue,” he said, looking back.

“The one thing I did not expect, and this goes back to the SunTrust building, is that I didn’t expect for Academy Street to begin to develop like it has up this way and Markley Street to develop the way it has … I had many opportunities to invest down Markley Street and on Academy Street and I didn’t,” he said.

As for Camperdown’s impact, “I think this is really going to cause a huge effect on all the property from the apartments and where Bouharoun’s [wine and spirits store] is to Church Street, and there’s a lot of property there. … I think that area is going to blossom,” the veteran developer said.

Even now, though, with a shiny new centerpiece of commerce emerging in downtown and with more than 7 million square feet of commercial space developed across 10 states, Glenn’s mind wanders back to what once stood at Main and Broad.

“My grandmother, grandfather, and my mother, my aunts, uncles all worked at Camperdown Mill and lived 200 yards from that on the other side of Church Street,” said Glenn, now 72.

That mill village, he added, represented the “live, work, play” environment that Camperdown will now try to create for future generations.

In announcing the project’s new logo, Glenn released a statement that said in part, “We believe this mark not only relates to the important textile history of this city and this specific property, but also represents our goal for this new development to further weave together Greenville’s vibrant downtown.”

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