So I was reading this month’s edition of Garden & Gun (which I recommend to anyone who loves southern culture, food, and a well designed publication) when I came across an article extolling the virtues of a little town called Greenville. No it’s not in North Carolina and it’s not in the Coastal Plain. Greenville South Carolina is quickly becoming a preeminent southern town not because of its size but instead because of what it has to offer despite its size.
I know it’s easy to say that Raleigh doesn’t have a natural landmark. “It’s crazy! Why would anyone have built a state capitol here?” Ok, when you visit Greenville and see how the town’s center has focused itself around Reedy River Falls you understand why a great natural landmark can make such a difference. People actually use the waterfront! And this isn’t the Neuse mind you. Greenville sits in the foothills of the southern Appalachians and that water is moving. But do you see any rails keeping people out of the water? Are there any signs saying “Fine for swimming $200?” No and no. The city respects the falls for what they are, and use it equally for recreation and as a development tool.
In addition to a thriving art and food scene, Greenville has it’s own minor league baseball team. It has a Main Street designed by Lawrence Halprin. It is home to two Universities, a BMW Plant (and driving school), top rate art and children’s museums, a GE Manufacturing Facility, a zoo, and expanding greenway system (which actually take you to and through desirable places), all in a city of comparable size to Raleigh. Yes just Raleigh, not the whole triangle.
No, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce is not paying me to write this post. I visited Greenville in the spring with Robin Moore’s Human Use of the Urban Landscape class. Even though it was probably the rainiest day in the first half of the year, the weather could not dampen our realization that we had discovered a town that knew where it was heading an understood the value of planning and site design. Any student who wants to get out of Raleigh for the weekend could do much worse than check this place out for a couple of days, and take me with you.