The desire to live, work, and play in the same place is transforming the Upstate

Photo by Will Crooks

Growth in the Upstate over the past decade has forged well beyond what many Greenvillians ever would have imagined when we were growing up. Let’s explore some of the amazing reasons why there has been so much growth, particularly in real estate.

The Upstate is certainly well-known due to many of our major employers that have continued to expand and invest — BMW, Michelin, GE, and Fluor, just to name a few. These companies have announced hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment over the last decade and hired thousands of new employees. These employees need places to shop, eat, play, and live, which creates demand for new retail, more office space, and more apartments and subdivisions. Consider some of the new companies that have placed the Upstate on their map: Dave & Buster’s, Cheesecake Factory, H&M, Cabela’s, Brooks Brothers, and Nordstrom Rack. These companies strategically chose to put roots down here because the Upstate reached a critical population threshold.

There have also been significant changes in central business districts and urban areas. In the past decade, Greenville, for example, has added several higher learning institutions to the downtown fabric, with Clemson University’s MBA program, a University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business telepresence site, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, and the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.

These institutions have attracted a unique and diverse group of students that desire the ability to live, work, play, and go to class in close proximity. This phenomenon creates a new demand for short-term housing such as apartments and condos located close by.

Downtown Spartanburg has seen a similar increase in demand, and developers have followed suit with the Montgomery Building conversion and the addition of other living spaces near the campuses of Converse College and Wofford University.

The Upstate has certainly mirrored the national trend of urbanization. People want to live in communities where they can be close to work, have convenient shopping, and have access to parks and trails for recreation.

Recently, there has been a good deal of talk about the number of apartments and hotels coming online in downtown Greenville. People wonder, “Is it too many?” or “Is it enough?” The short answer is, we really don’t know yet and likely won’t know for a few years.

In the long term, this will lead to thousands more people living, working, staying, and playing downtown, which will create additional demand for restaurants, groceries, quick service, specialty shops, parks, etc. The groundwork will have been laid for a walkable community and not just along Main Street. This will create further demand for services throughout the central business district and generate more foot traffic on parallel blocks.

What do we envision next, you might ask? I believe over the next 25 years, Greenville will see new corridors focused on development and urban renewal closer to the city.

Highway 101, for example, south of I-85, has a tremendous amount of vacant land available. As both Michelin and Bausch & Lomb have chosen to locate new facilities along this route, other companies and their employees are likely to follow. The race to provide sewer infrastructure is already on, and we expect that area will look much different in 10 years.

Another area to watch is the land around Verdae and CU-ICAR. There remains a tremendous amount of land ripe for development in that area, with superior access to the interstates and proximity to many walkable amenities. The infrastructure — like sidewalks and roundabouts — is already in place. Employees will be able to walk and bike to work, walk to lunch, and have their visitors in town walk to the office from their hotel.

From the hustle of downtown Greenville to the lakes and parks near the mountains to the state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Spartanburg, the Upstate has tremendous resources. I believe this is just the beginning of the next chapter. All the communities in the Upstate benefit from the growth of one another, and community leaders will be challenged to work together to maintain this new sense of growth in the Upstate. It’s an exciting time to be here.



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