Stone Avenue to see transformative retail, residential development

NORTHPOINTE

The NorthPointe mixed-use project - featuring 285 apartments, retail space and an upscale Harris Teeter grocery store on property across from Canal Insurance Co. - will transform the Stone Avenue corridor, including the closing and reconfiguration of streets.

The future of Stone Avenue as a re-imagined anchor of downtown Greenville has in large part rested on the fate of a triangular piece of land, a dormant, open field where U.S. highways meet in a chaotic arrangement.

Today, the future is on the near horizon as plans for 8 acres of land owned by a sibling company of Canal Insurance Co. will bring striking change.

An anchor, "best-in-class" grocery store.

A reconfigured Wade Hampton Boulevard, coupled with the closing of a popular cut-through street for locals.

Hundreds of apartments built over and around retail space, which would include new restaurants.

And, important to the thousands of drivers who enter downtown each day by way of Wade Hampton Boulevard, a remake of a longtime, unimaginative gateway into the city.

The project is dubbed "North Pointe."

The plans envisioned by Central Realty Holdings will be presented to the public in the form of neighborhood meetings first, then through the city's formal approval process, the company's president and CEO, Rece Morgan, told The Greenville News on Wednesday.

The city will have final say on wide-ranging elements of design, use and traffic patterns.

The identity of the grocery store remains under wraps for now, Morgan said, though it will inhabit 53,000 square feet of space and is described by Morgan as "best-in-class" and "full-service."

The project's footprint is bisected nearly in half by Column Street, a large portion of which will be closed to unite the two properties.

The intersection of Wade Hampton and East Stone will be reconfigured in consultation with the state Department of Transportation.

Wade Hampton will shift about 50 to 60 feet to bring it to a right angle, instead of the gradual yield that has created a no-man's land between businesses.

The new intersection will make the Column Street cut-through no longer necessary, Morgan said.

Column Street will remain open between Church Street and East Stone, and the closed portion would be used as an entrance into the development.

Central Realty owns two buildings inhabited by a frame shop and music store at the intersection of East Stone and Wade Hampton, which would be connected with the condemned property where the intersection once met.

Work on both U.S. highways will improve pedestrian access and aesthetic but will maintain the same number of lanes, Morgan said.

The point where Wade Hampton splits with Church Street will be handed over to the city to create an attractive gateway presence, Morgan said.

The project will bring a total of 282 apartment units, developed in concert with Atlanta development company ECI Group.

Some units will be built on top of retail space oriented to the street side, others built separately in a complex next to the grocery store.

A six-level parking deck will serve both residential and commercial. An enclosed air bridge will connect the upper two levels of parking to residences. The deck will be built in the center of the development, with buildings concealing it from street view, Morgan said.

The development has been designed in keeping with the city's Stone Avenue Master Plan, a plan adopted in 2011 to guide the corridor's future growth, Morgan said.

The master plan was adopted in 2011 after input from the community to guide the future of the corridor's development, which City Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle said the North Pointe development does for her North Main district.

"The mixed-use development of downtown Main Street is expanding to reach more neighborhoods," Doyle said. "We are glad to see the developers recognize the importance of the neighborhood-initiated Stone Avenue Master plan.

In addition to providing commercial and residential service, Morgan said, the project will create a bookend for the ultimate vision for Stone Avenue.

Already, a $20 million mixed-use project — Main + Stone — is under way at the corner of North Main Street and East Stone Avenue, a catalyst for a corridor that is increasingly serving as a transition point connecting the expansive North Main community with the urban center of downtown.

The corner area of Stone Avenue and Wade Hampton has been a magnet for cultural entrepreneurship in recent years, despite the look and feel of a suburban superhighway colliding with an established and expansive residential district.

The Community Tap craft beer store and bar planted its flag in the nondescript 1970s-era Stone Plaza shopping center five years ago, creating a hub where food trucks and independent entrepreneurs do business.

The Universal Joint restaurant opened last summer next to the former site of The Handlebar, a music venue that was once a staple of the Greenville music scene.

The Handlebar closed last year with plans by a group of Greenville and Charleston businessmen to open a boutique bowling alley that will also serve as a music venue.

RELATED: Bowling alley, music venue planned

Canal Insurance — owned for 88 years by the same family group as Central Realty Holdings — will remain, Morgan said.

The company is seeking approval through the city's "planned development" guidelines, which allow more flexibility for developers and more say for city planners.

The company plans to hold neighborhood meetings likely in mid-July before submitting the project in August to the city's Design Review Board, which will pass on its recommendation to the City Council.

If approved, road work would begin in October, with construction on the parking deck and buildings beginning in January, Morgan said.

There is no time line on an announcement of the identity of the grocery store, he said.