Five items were on the agenda for the November meeting of the city of Greenville Design Review Board Urban Panel. One application was withdrawn before the meeting, so the board voted on four applications – with mixed outcomes. With repairs still ongoing in the official City Council chambers, the panel once again met in a small, but cozy, first floor conference room.
Garage addition at 7 Logan St.
This application was to add a three-bay garage along with an 887-square-foot upstairs apartment onto an existing property that already has a single-family home. The application was originally filed in August, but had been postponed from previous meetings due to the design submitted not meeting residential guidelines on the commercially zoned (C-4) property.
City staff had not heard from the applicant since September, nor were any updated designs received. The applicant wasn’t present at the meeting, so the application was denied.
First Presbyterian Church at 22 S. Richardson St.
First Presbyterian Church submitted an application to demolish two buildings on its property, creating a playground area with green space, landscaping and a multi-court area for the church and school. A church spokesman told the board that the two buildings are dilapidated and the church has no need for them. The church would need approximately $1 million in upfit costs to restore the buildings, the spokesman said. The church currently has limited green space now for kids to play during the day, so demolishing the buildings and constructing a playground will fill that need.
The church spokesman said this is just a temporary solution, as the church is also working on an overall strategic plan as the “school is busting at the seams.” The strategic plan will be presented to the FPC congregation in January, said the spokesperson, and the plan could include some rooftop green space. The board said the demolition request was reasonable given the state of the buildings and approved the application.
JHM Hotel at 301 S. Spring St.
This application is for a new seven-story, 240-room hotel at the corner of Spring and Washington streets. While others have called this two hotels, it’s not. This is two Marriott brands (currently a trend across the country called double-branding) within one building with shared amenities. The hotel will be part SpringHill Suites by Marriott and part Residence Inn by Marriott.
Michael Kerski, planning and development manager for the city, said the city has concerns with the design submitted – a mixture of brick and stone – as it is very similar to others downtown already. When will we reach the point where we can start seeing outside-the-Southern-box architecture? One can hope, but the dream probably won’t happen with this project.
Much discussion followed on the proposed underneath entrance to the property along Washington Street. The DRB encouraged JHM and the architect to use the Marriott Courtyard as an example and to do a canopy-type entrance street side instead.
The board also expressed concerns over the color difference in materials and the banding on the outside, saying the design didn’t seem to have “rhythm” and will look dated in 15 to 20 years. Board members also expressed concern regarding how the windowless alley side of the building will look. The alley side will be window-less because of fire code, but the DRB wants to ensure that the detail is still appealing to anyone walking down the alley. The board approved the application with nine conditions, stipulating that those conditions be worked through with staff and two board members.
250 S. Pleasantburg Drive
If a new sign is requested that doesn’t meet the current city sign ordinance, it goes before the DRB. This application was submitted by Masstar Signs for a new digital sign board for Wilkins Norwood and Company.
The original sign is circa 1960s, said Bobby James with Masstar. His client, Wilkins Norwood and Co., wants something larger to advertise and “create more awareness” of its business across the six lanes of traffic on Pleasantburg. Because of the slope of the land and the adjacent private drive, James said he was unable to design a digital signboard that would fit within the existing guidelines.
The DRB discussed at length, but in the end denied the application and encouraged both Masstar and Wilkins Norwood and Co. to come up with a sign within the standards, stating that they didn’t want to set a precedent for sign ordinance exceptions and intend to uphold the existing guidelines.
Before the meeting adjourned, city staff told the DRB the city will be sending out an RFP (request for proposals) in December to solicit a consultant to review its current design guidelines and make recommendations for improvements. The RFP will also cover best practices for parking too. The plan is to pick a firm in February and have results provided back to the city by the end of next year.