Gateway to Greenville
The view from Reedy River Falls is about to change. Wyche P.A., the law firm that overlooks the river, has agreed to sell its East Camperdown Way property to Orlando, Fla.-based The Kessler Collection, and a new hotel, the Grand Bohemian Greenville, will take its place.
This is not just any hotel. Inspired by the look and feel of a national park lodge, Greenville’s Grand Bohemian will add to Kessler’s 11 boutique hotels and restaurants, including Grand Bohemian hotels in Charleston and Asheville. And with an art gallery, spa, 4,000-square-foot ballroom, meeting space and a restaurant and bar overlooking the river, it’s designed to be a destination in and of itself. Hotel officials say they will break ground in the fall of 2017.
But as impressive as Kessler hopes the 160-room Grand Bohemian Greenville will be, the new hotel is a further sign that properties along the eastern side banks of the Reedy and along Falls and Broad streets are about to potentially experience a transformation about as significant as the one that gave birth to RiverPlace. Although the name for this new area is subject to change, it is being referred to as the East Gateway District.
Aerial shots of the site provided by Brian Scott of Upstate Aerial LLC.
“The building will feel very rooted into the park setting, so the use of natural materials, rustic materials, stone and brick, will help ground it to the site.”
Christian Sottile of Sottile & Sottile, the design architect for the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
“The Kessler Collection is thrilled to be entering the vibrant city of Greenville for the brand’s next Grand Bohemian hotel,” said Richard C. Kessler, chairman and chief executive officer. “The location is uniquely dramatic, situated along a beautiful waterfall and park in the urban core. We are very eager to begin construction and plans are well underway. There will be no other hotel in the state of South Carolina with such a tranquil ambiance created by natural beauty.”
The firm of Sottile & Sottile in Savannah, Ga., is the design architect for the Greenville Grand Bohemian. One of the firm’s principals is Christian Sottile, dean of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s School of Building Arts. Sottile said he has become “extremely familiar” with Greenville over the 18 months his firm has worked on the local project with the Kessler team.
“We’ve been to Greenville a number of times to study the site and understand what really is a very unique context there in Falls Park,” he said. “The opportunity here with the redevelopment of this site is to create an eastern gateway to Falls Park.”
A new district
Kessler officials said the Grand Bohemian will be an integral part of the area’s transformation into the East Gateway District, in collaboration with developer Centennial American Properties and the City of Greenville. Centennial is redeveloping the Camperdown site, the current home of The Greenville News. The site will feature a hotel, retail, office and multi-family.
Centennial has proposed another building at 55 E. Camperdown Way along the banks of the Reedy. The new office and retail development is situated on property that includes the Bowater parking garage and the former Bowater building that now houses the Nexsen Pruet law firm, MGC Law, Colliers International real estate firm and others. Wakefield, Beasley and Associates of Alpharetta, Ga., architect for the project, has applied for a certificate of appropriateness from the city’s Design Review Board. The board is considering the project.
Meanwhile, The News will move to 32 E. Broad St. Furthermore, the currently under-construction Cancer Survivors Park, the coming redevelopment of County Square and the present-day home of the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities also signal the expansion of downtown beyond Main Street.
“There will be no other hotel in the state of South Carolina with such a tranquil ambiance created by natural beauty.”
Richard C. Kessler, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kessler Collection
For Centennial American President Brody Glenn, the Camperdown project could play a role increasing the area’s vitality. “One of the things that we felt was extremely important is trying to create a connection from Main Street into the [Falls] park,” Glenn told Design Review Board officials recently.
That connection, Glenn hopes, will create a quadrant of Greenville throughout Main Street and the Reedy River to “start to create some energy on that side.” Centennial began developing the News site about two years ago. “We’re so lucky to have the park that we have,” he said. “We also have a good bit of land in that area that can be redeveloped and help our city grow and become more vibrant.”
Wyche officials said they will announce plans for the firm’s new location once details are certain. The firm is committed to its new home being another catalyst for positive growth in the community, the officials said. It has offices in Greenville and Columbia.
The intersection of enhancing Greenville’s physical environment and artistic community presented a rare opportunity that Wyche knew would further Greenville’s growing reputation as an international destination, officials with the law firm said.
“Wyche has been approached many times over the years by developers interested in our home at the base of the Reedy River Falls,” said Ted Gentry, chair of Wyche’s executive committee. “We have rarely been tempted, but we thought Kessler’s approach was special. Kessler shared our love and vision for this very special place. We are convinced that Kessler will do justice to one of the most beautiful natural settings in any city.”
In the eyes of Greenville Mayor Knox White, that opportunity was made possible largely because one group believed in the city long before many others — Wyche. White says, “The Wyche firm has been integral in many of the most visionary projects in Greenville’s history. It’s no surprise that Wyche is also central to this exciting development.”
Meet the Architect
Christian Sottile, dean of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s School of Building Arts and whose firm is designing the Greenville Grand Bohemian, said the hotel project is as much a part of the city’s urban design “as it is about a building and an architectural project.”
“The site initially appears challenging because of its shape,” he said. “It’s really very much a part of the park. But in understanding the site better, we have really come to realize that the old Wyche law firm building provides a template for how to build on the site. The fact that the site is long and linear, it causes us to think about the architectural program in a way that really takes advantage of the views to the river — both the falls and the lower falls — as well as open up to the old Camperdown connection, which is very much a part of how the park is accessed from the city in the redevelopment of this eastern gateway.”
The Wyche building was originally designed by Kirk Craig of Craig and Gaulden Architects, now Craig Gaulden Davis.
The point where the Liberty Bridge meets the parking lot near the Wyche building is an opportunity to expand Falls Park and improve pedestrian accessibility to the lower falls, Sottile said.
He is working with Kessler on five projects and said, “None of the Kessler Collection hotels repeat a specific approach. If there’s one thing they hold in common, their mission is to create inspirational places. No two projects are alike because no two places are alike.”
Sottile said the Greenville site will be rooted in a park setting and influenced by the city’s textile mill heritage.
“I think what we will see is that the building will feel very rooted into the park setting so the use of natural materials, rustic materials, stone and brick, will help ground it to the site,” he said. “Then we’ll see it transition into a building that has clear and clean lines. The materials will become softer. There will be more wood and there will be generous areas of glazing. And there will be roof forms that are identifiable that give the building presence without being complicated.”
The Power of Place: Wyche
The Wyche law firm traces its origins to 1921, when C. Granville Wyche joined two other Greenville attorneys to form Cothran, Dean & Wyche. His son, Tommy, joined the firm in 1949 and guided its growth for more than 60 years. His vision led Wyche to play an influential role in the revitalization and growth of downtown Greenville beginning in the 1980s. Wyche died in January 2015 at age 88.
“Much of downtown Greenville’s growth and development in the last three decades has been due to Tommy Wyche’s vision, leadership and collaboration with other community leaders,” said Ted Gentry, chair of Wyche’s executive committee. “We knew we had a responsibility to continue that tradition. Making it possible for the Grand Bohemian Hotel to come to the heart of Greenville, in a location we have loved and cared for, will help our vibrant city continue to thrive.”
In the Wyche firm’s 95 years, its attorneys have participated in landmark litigation, served as counsel on cutting-edge transactions, and provided community leadership that has helped shape and drive the region’s growth and success.
Wyche attorneys have played a key role in the development of many of the most significant projects in downtown Greenville and the Upstate, including The Peace Center, RiverPlace, The Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Bon Secours Wellness Arena, The Hyatt Hotel and Heritage Green.
In addition, Tommy Wyche has been recognized for a history of leadership, as well as visionary ideas, in creating an environment in which the arts have flourished in Greenville, receiving the prestigious Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts to acknowledge the firm’s efforts.
Falls Park, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is considered by local officials and residents as one of Greenville’s most-significant attributes. The park to many residents and visitors is an oasis within the city, a place where people gather to work and play. It lends itself to a variety of activities for people of all ages and interests.
In the mid-1980s, the Carolina Foothills Garden Club and the City of Greenville adopted a master plan for the park that was designed to restore the beauty of the area and provide a safe and welcoming gathering spot for individuals and groups. The vision for a public garden was finally realized when the Camperdown Bridge was removed in 2002. Using funds generated through a local hospitality tax, and building on the master plan designed in 1999 by landscape architect Andrea Mains, Falls Park was developed to include 20 acres of gardens showcasing Reedy River Falls.
In August 2002, Mayor White announced “In Full Bloom in 2003,” a $13 million initiative to transform the park into a public garden and oasis. Included in the project was construction of a 355-foot-long, 12-foot-wide, curved suspension bridge that was designed by world-renowned architect Miguel Rosales.