No decision was reached on the Peace Center’s proposed Wyche Pavilion renovations presented on Feb. 7 to the City of Greenville Design Review Board Urban Panel.
Rather, the Peace Center, with the DRB panel’s encouragement, deferred its application for a certificate of appropriateness until its architects can work with city planning staff and two members of the board to revise the plans to reflect changes suggested during the meeting.
The main concern of the board was not the enclosure of the Wyche Pavilion, though it was mentioned and the issue of public access was raised, but rather that the new construction be in compliance with the design guidelines that call for an addition to a historic structure to be obviously different and subordinate to the original structure.
Certainly ranking as one of the best-attended public hearings of the DRB in recent history, the controversial topic drew a crowd that filled the 10th-floor chamber of City Hall. Because of that, the five panelists introduced themselves to the dozens of new attendees, listing their educational and professional qualifications for holding their positions.
Of primary concern for the public, as evidenced by the reaction on social media, was the enclosure of the building that has for decades been a shell of what once was a thriving manufacturing facility on the bank of the Reedy River. And although dozens of commenters and posters advocated speaking in opposition during the public-comment portion of the meeting, none did.
Only Lindsey Strand, executive director of the Greenville County Historical Society, spoke during the time allocated for those opposed, noting first, however, that she hadn’t planned to speak but felt compelled after hearing specific comments from those in support.
Several members of the community, in addition to those presenting the plans, spoke in support of the project during the public portion.
The DRB Board response in summary
Fontaine said she was in favor of the modern approach of the addition, but suggested the design go even more modern like the Genevieve’s addition to the Peace Center concert hall. She made an additional suggestion to redesign the utilitarian-looking stairs off the addition closest to the footbridge, calling it a big opportunity to do something sculptural instead of something that looks like a fire escape.
Crawford said he believed the proposed design has an opportunity to be something really great, specifically mentioning the glass as a good job of tying in Genevieve’s and balancing the amount of brick used in downtown Greenville. He said he’s sure there are things to be improved but called it a really good effort. Further, when the subject was raised of whether the addition was subordinate, he referred to the dimensions (original structure is 100 feet and addition is 75 feet), calling it “by definition subordinate.” He also urged the other panelists to consider that Tommy Wyche would be advocating for this.
Of the five panelists, Benedict came across as the most opposed to the proposed plans for enclosing the structure and suggested moving the addition. He said how much he appreciates the as-is, bare-bones structure and the history of the building.
What is the front of the building? Lehde raised the question to discuss the frontage of the building and how the front design should be handled differently from the other sides. He urged the panelists to stick to the guidelines regardless of affinity for the proposed design.
Carmella Cioffi (chair)
Cioffi said the landscaping plan with the boardwalk along the river was a huge improvement, but she raised other issues with the structural design. First, she is concerned that the public won’t be able to freely access the building once it’s enclosed and urged the Peace Center to consider having times for public access. Her main concern is the addition’s compliance with the design guidelines as it is not visually considered subordinate.
Recommendation and next steps
Before bringing the design back before the DRB for a second shot at approval, the Peace Center and its architects must meet with planning staff and two members of the DRB to revise it, taking into consideration the recommendations mentioned: make the addition visually distinctive and subordinate and the design of the stairwell more sculptural, provide more details on the rooftop mechanicals, and consider accessibility and openness to the public. Riegel said the goal is to work through the process and return with a revised plan for the March 7 meeting of the DRB.