Upstate Business Journal

County working on infrastructure plan for County Square redo

Greenville County has agreed to spend up to $15 million for a new parking garage in the West End.

May 19, 2017

by Rudolph Bell

Greenville County officials can’t say at this point exactly what public infrastructure will be needed to accommodate their plan for the redevelopment of County Square.

Not to mention how much that infrastructure might cost, or how much of the cost might be borne by the private developer they pick to redevelop the high-profile property of nearly 38 acres.

To start, though, the county has agreed to spend up to $15 million for a new parking garage in the West End.

County officials earlier this year began the process of redeveloping County Square, the county’s main base of operations since 1987.

The property is high ground within walking distance of Falls Park, Fluor Field, and the Swamp Rabbit Trail and is highly desirable for real estate development.

County officials are currently mulling six redevelopment plans for County Square submitted by private developers.

At the same time, they are working on a plan to provide the public infrastructure that will be necessary to accommodate the proposed historic change.

Among the infrastructure improvements they say may be needed are new streets, the upgrading or realignment of existing streets, parking garages, sidewalks, water and sewer service, a stormwater drainage system.

“In an urban area like downtown Greenville, you need sidewalks and street improvements, those kind of things, utilities. All that has to be in place to enable the development to occur,” said County Council Chairman Butch Kirven.

Exactly what will be needed and exactly how much the county will pay for it depends on what the selected developer plans to build and how much that developer agrees to contribute toward public improvements.

County Administrator Joe Kernell said he expects the developer to pay for “a significant portion” of any necessary public infrastructure.

“The county is not in a position to foot the bill for all public improvements,” Kernell said. “That’s all part of the development. We will do what we can with any developer to ensure the public infrastructure is provided.”

County officials aren’t waiting for developer negotiations to conclude before moving ahead with an infrastructure plan.

On May 16, County Council approved a draft agreement between the county and the City of Greenville in which the county agrees to spend up to $15 million for a new parking garage somewhere in the West End but not on the County Square property.

Building the garage is a necessary early step because members of the public currently park on acres of asphalt at County Square when they go to baseball games at Fluor Field or other activities in the West End. Those people need somewhere else to park before construction can begin in earnest at County Square.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement calls for the city to pick a site for the parking garage, have it designed and built, own and operate it, and keep any revenue it generates.

That will solve a problem the city has been wrestling with: how to provide more parking for the rapidly redeveloping West End.

“It’s always been a priority of the city to put parking in the West End,” said City Manager John Castile.

Castile said he figures the parking garage will need 1,000 parking spaces.

“We’re going through the process of identifying suitable locations,” he said.

The county has an incentive to cooperate with the city in the proposed redevelopment of County Square because the property is within city limits and any redevelopment will have to conform to the city’s development rules.

The proposed agreement also calls for the creation of a so-called “joint county business park” at County Square.

That’s a state-sanctioned designation that enables the county to convert any property tax revenue generated by new development on the site into fee payments that can be used to pay for public infrastructure. The fee payments convert to regular property tax revenue once the infrastructure is paid for.

Currently, County Square is not on the tax rolls because it’s owned by the county.

The proposed agreement also calls on the county to study the traffic impact of redeveloping County Square.

Castile said City Council will likely vote on the proposed agreement in the next few weeks.

Kernell said the county expects to pick a developer in July. But Kernell said he couldn’t say when the county might conclude negotiations with a developer.

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