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March 18, 2013

Towne Center project takes next big step

GREENVILLE — A major mixed use development is one step closer to receiving final approval from the City of Greenville.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend approval of zoning changes for the Greenville Towne Center project to the City Council.

Commission Chairman George Gregg said, prior to seeing a presentation from developers during Monday’s meeting, that he had concerns about the center.

“I think I have been convinced that this is going to be a quality project,” Gregg said.

The Commission did recommend on minor change to the plans for the center, which would be built along the Interstate 30 frontage road in Greenville, concerning the potential for limited service hotels to be a part of the project.

Commission member Tim Stainback asked whether any hotels which would be built as part of the center would be subject to additional regulations passed in 2011, in response to what was perceived at that time to be a glut of such properties in Greenville.

“I talked to one of the hotel guys and he says they are already having troubles,” Stainback said. “I don’t see why we would want to reverse that.”

Gerald E. Luecke with Hodges and Asssociates, the architects of the project, said the developers have not entered into any negotiations with any specific hotel companies, but said they would be willing to comply with any stipulations concerning hotels which would be included as part of the planned development agreement.

Commission member Ben Collins moved that any such hotels would have to appear before the Commission and Council and obtain a conditional use permit, before being allowed to build inside the Greenville Towne Center, which is also expected to include retail and commercial businesses, private event/meeting halls and even multi-family tracts.

Greenville Board of Development President and CEO Greg Sims said the planning for the project has been under way for years and credited Scott Steenson with III:I Emerging Market Partners in Plano with sticking with concept through the prolonged economic recession. Sims said the center would be among the finest developments in the area.

“Anything in the Metroplex, this rivals that,” Sims said, thanking the Commission for their vote. “This is the next step to get a major retailer to help kick off the project.”

The Commission voted to recommend a change in zoning from light industrial, commercial and agricultural to Planned Development for the almost 63 acres for the site along the eastbound Interstate 30 service road, which is also expected to be home to the Splash Kingdom water park.

The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Advisory Board voted March 7 to recommend a planned development agreement for the Greenville Towne Center.

The Greenville City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the project when it meets March 26.

The center incorporates most of the elements required by the City of Greenville as part of its “overlay zoning” regulations, in terms of landscaping, building materials, architectural features and signage, while also offering the developers the flexibility in terms of the layout of the property and other considerations.

Luecke said the project is a compromise which will benefit everyone involved.

“We tried to create a project that keeps the quality standards you’re expecting as well as giving us the flexibility to comply with those,” Luecke said.

The Towne Center would stretch along the eastbound service road, starting just east of the Home Depot parking lot, with Center Point Lane as its western boundary.

Ground could be broken as early as this spring for the water park, as officials with Splash Kingdom have indicated they want to be open for the 2014 season.

Luecke said the agreement calls for the developer to present a complete site plan to the Commission within two years.

“It is a conceptual plan for the whole development,” Luecke said.

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