Two major national trends – shipping container repurposing and food halls – are converging in one new project in Greenville’s West End.
Gather GVL, a new 12-restaurant food hall is planned for a near-vacant lot at 126 and 128 Augusta St., across from the new South Carolina Children’s Theatre site. A small cinderblock building that currently sits on the site will be demolished, and both used and newly fabricated shipping containers will be positioned around a courtyard to create Gather GVL.
The developer, Four Oaks Property Group LLC, filed plans Nov. 6 with the City of Greenville Design Review Board Urban Panel for the 17,000-square-foot, multicolored complex that will sit on a 0.5-acre lot steps away from Fluor Field. The project will be presented at the Dec. 7 DRB public hearing. McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture is the project’s architect.
Doug Cross, managing partner with Four Oaks Property Group, says the ground lease was finalized Oct. 31 for the property owned by the Peter F. Cureton Jr. Foundation, which also owns the Children’s Theatre property.
The timing of this project is in line with national trends in the restaurant and development industries.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the food hall trend is still white hot: “The number of food halls grew by 37% to 105 in 2016, and is predicted to double by 2019 in the U.S., according to commercial real-estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.”
This is the second food hall announced for the Greenville area. The first was The Commons on Welborn Street in Greenville with a projected spring 2018 opening that will house the Feed & Seed’s operations and restaurants from Bacon Bros. Public House, Due South Coffee, and Community Tap, among others.
Developer: Four Oaks Property Group LLC
Architect: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture
Capital partners: Joe and John Pazdan
Four Oaks Property Group looked at various areas in Greenville but chose the West End property for Gather GVL because of the continued growth.
“We’re so excited about all of the redevelopment of the West End,” Cross says. “The Augusta Street corridor specifically is becoming one of the main entertainment corridors in the city. We wanted to be part of that.”
Cross says his son, Mack, a real estate developer in Mount Pleasant, S.C., came to him with the observation that there aren’t many places he and his family can go to hang out and enjoy good food and sip on a beverage in an atmosphere where children are welcome.
Shortly thereafter, Cross and his wife, Mary Beth, who lived for 30 years in Winston Salem, N.C., until moving to Greenville in June, formed Four Oaks Property Group with Mack specifically for this project. Mary Beth Cross grew up in Greenville and is the sister of Joe Pazdan, partner with MPS Architecture.
The concept further grew from the idea of the “third place” popularized by “The Great Good Place” by Ray Oldenburg. A third place is any gathering place – a café, barbershop, a park – that becomes an anchor for community life.
Cross says the goal for Gather GVL is to create a destination where people of all ages, and especially families with young children, can eat a wide variety of local food, drink a cold beer, listen to local performers, or watch a Clemson football game on a giant screen while the kids and dogs play in the central grassy courtyard and adults hang out with old and new friends. Cross says if all goes well, this will be the first of several similar projects.
Most nights Gather GVL will close by 10 p.m. “It’s not intended to be a late-night watering hole,” Cross says.
The two-level, U-shaped food hall constructed out of shipping containers will feature a dozen yet-to-be-finalized restaurants and include a variety of cuisines. Each restaurant will occupy its own shipping container. Among them will be an ice cream shop, full-service bar, coffee shop, and micro-restaurants individually specializing in burgers, pizza, tacos, and healthier options, Cross says. Gather GVL will also feature a stage and an artificial turf courtyard.
Cross says a hallmark of the vision is to provide craft food and beverages.
“These will be local and regional entrepreneurs – no national players – many who would love to be downtown, but they can’t afford to be downtown in the traditional sense,” he says.
He says they’ve had “lots of conversations” with potential tenants, but haven’t finalized any yet as of the DRB filing.
Aside from bar seating, the planned 250 seats will be outside of the containers in the shared, open air dining area and upstairs on the rooftop, which will have additional containers that may be used for extra kitchen space or small event areas.
Cross says there is a canopy over half of the development, and they are currently working on plans to enclose the seating area during the colder months.
The repurposed shipping containers used will be the standard 8-by-20 or 8-by-40 feet, but since a few of the restaurants will need more kitchen space, the developer is working with SG Blocks, a company that uses maritime-grade shipping containers to build shopping, working, and living environments, to fabricate 20-by-30-foot containers. SG Blocks is also sourcing the recycled containers.
Cross says the initial inspiration for the style of Gather GVL was a development called SteelCraft in Long Beach, Calif., that opened early this year. Also constructed from shipping containers, it features eight vendors that range from a coffee shop to a waffle maker. Additional inspiration came from the Austin, Texas, late-night hotspot Container Bar, which is a structure created from seven stacked shipping containers.
Cross says shipping containers were chosen as the main structure because sustainability is important to them.
“We’ve imported a lot more than we’ve exported,” he says. “Makes sense repurposing the containers.”
He also says this style is a unique and interesting architectural approach that attracts people.
Part of the plan to attract people is to activate the sidewalk with the front two units – one red and one blue – which will be open to those walking by on the way to Greenville Drive games at Fluor Field and future shows at the Children’s Theatre. Those front two units will likely include a brewery or bar and coffee shop or other similar type of walk-up counter.