The result of a yearlong discussion between Greenville Mayor Knox White and Bob Hughes of Hughes Development Corporation about the need for a conference center downtown apart from the available hotel and event spaces was officially announced Jan. 24 from the new Greenville ONE Center.
Located in the former CertusBank training center at 2 W. Washington St. in the West tower of ONE Greenville, Greenville ONE Center is a 36,000-square-foot, two-story conference center equipped with state-of-the-art technology throughout.
“The space is exceptional,” White says. “It meets a need for conference space to attract even more professional groups to Greenville. It also is a good way to ‘test’ the market for an even larger conference facility in downtown in the future.”
The center includes a 274-seat auditorium with stadium seating and an additional 12-seat skybox, three large training rooms with a capacity for 24-60 people, six smaller breakout rooms, a catering kitchen, and other flexible meeting areas. Only one room, the former CertusBank “mock bank” training room, will need to be renovated. All other spaces will remain as is.
Greenville ONE Center is completely privately owned and operated. The physical space is owned by Greenville 1.1 LLC, which is a partnership that owns the entire building. Operations of the center are being handled by a joint venture between Hughes Development Corporation and JMI Sports.
Rental rates range from $250-$5,000 for both half-day and full-day rentals depending on the room or rooms needed, with additional options to rent the conference center a la carte, by floor, or the entire facility.
Lauren Johnson-Cummings, executive director for the new center, was brought in late November to manage the space overlooking Main and West Washington streets. Formerly an event planner with the Peace Center and the TD Convention Center, Johnson-Cummings says Greenville ONE Center fills a unique need in the business community.
“We’ve got lots of different event spaces, the hotels, but this really fills a unique need that is really important, and it’s really going to help the economic development of downtown Greenville,” she says. “And with this conference center being in the hub of downtown in the proximity to all the hotels and eateries, this is just going to be significant.”
Johnson-Cummings has begun marketing the center to local organizations as well as regional areas, such as Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Washington, D.C.
“It fills a need in the business community to be able to come and do a meeting and walk to get some lunch instead of being stuck in a carpeted room,” she says. “They can kind of get out and see a little bit of Greenville, which is what we want. We want people to be engaged and walk and see what Greenville has to offer.”
Over the years planning events in the 370,000-square-foot TD Convention Center off of North Pleasantburg Drive and more recently at the Peace Center, Johnson-Cummings says she’s been very aware of the shortcomings of available conference venues.
“The convention center is great and has lots of capacity, but it is so removed from everything,” she says.
Also, in her experience, organizations booking conference space are now looking for different amenities than they previously were.
“I think the name of the game is collaboration and engagement now with events, and I’ve seen that kind of change throughout my career,” she says. “Before, everyone just kind of stayed in one spot, and that has changed significantly. In order to keep participants engaged, you want to offer them inspired events spaces, and you want to get them as engaged as possible by getting out and seeing the city, especially if they’re not local, and even if you are local. Instead of catering lunch in, why not break up in groups and walk downtown?”
Since CertusBank announced its closure in 2015, the training center has sat largely vacant, except for occasional events and training bookings.
On Jan. 23, the day before the official Greenville ONE Center announcement, the YMCA of Greenville hosted approximately 200 people from across the county for its board orientation.
“What attracted us to the ONE Center is we are able to host our board members in a location that is centrally located in the heart of downtown that has such a high-level of professionalism, while also in an inviting environment,” says Jamie Inman, chief mission advancement officer of YMCA of Greenville.
Another user is Brasfield & Gorrie, who constructed both of the ONE Greenville towers as well as the Aloft hotel and adjacent parking garage, and helped the city reimagine what is now ONE City Plaza, formerly Piazza Bergamo. They were also the interior upfit contractor for the Greenville ONE Center before it became that entity. Their office is located in the ONE Greenville North Tower.
The company has previously used conference space in the Clemson MBA suite and also conference space in the Greenville ONE Center. Most recently, they used the space for a party in December.
“At Brasfield & Gorrie, we love to take every opportunity we can to show off our team members’ hard work, so when we learned the Greenville ONE Center was available for events, it seemed like the obvious choice for us to be able to welcome family and friends into a space that highlights what we do every day,” says Jessica McCoy, senior marketing coordinator.
McCoy says with their unique background with the ONE Center and knowing its intricacies, they knew it would be a great opportunity to serve as an event facility.
“The Greenville ONE Center is definitely an untapped resource for folks looking for corporate or personal events,” she says. “It’s a one-stop shop for conferences — auditorium, café space, perfect downtown location, etc. — but could also have potential for rehearsal dinners or maybe even a wedding or two given the right headcount and setup.”
In November, NEXT, which has used various event spaces downtown, booked the Greenville ONE Center auditorium, entryway, and bar area for its venture pitch.
“The breakout rooms and size of the space were perfect for a conference highlighting our innovative startups and entrepreneurship,” says NEXT operations manager, Christy Ashkettle. “The location is superb, right in the middle of downtown and very accessible.”
Ashkettle says, with Greenville’s growth, an event venue such as Greenville ONE Center is timely.
“Its value lies in that it is unique, with a crisp and contemporary look and feel,” she says. “It’s high tech and perfect for business seminars, summits, team building, and conferences. The ONE Center has filled a very definite need for the Greenville community.”
The Greenville ONE Center
36,000 square feet
274-seat auditorium with 12-seat skybox
3 large training rooms, each with capacity for 24-60 people
6 small breakout rooms
1 catering kitchen
$250-$5,000 for half-day and full-day rentals
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