Today, downtown Greenville is a bustling, vibrant locale that attracts those near and far.
Yet, it wasn’t always that way. The story of how a group of civic leaders began to rejuvenate Main Street in the 1970s is often told, but lesser known is the creative talent behind the master plan to bring it back to life.
In October 1976, then-mayor Max Heller and several city council members traveled to San Francisco to meet with noted landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, lauded for his talents in creating public spaces to enhance the pedestrian experience. Inspired by his wife Anna, a modern dancer and choreographer, Halprin was particularly interested in the flow of people, and even held workshops to determine how spaces could generate emotions. Before the delegation left, they were convinced this was the right person to take on this project.
Halprin’s design reduced Main Street from four lanes to two, created parking spaces diagonal to the street, and strategically placed trees, benches, and signage. He intentionally created pinch points to navigate pedestrians into certain spaces, encouraging community interaction.
Over the next several decades, civic leaders and Knox White, another mayor dynamically committed to the continued development of downtown, increased the reasons why people would visit and live downtown. “Our duty now is to assure that we preserve Halprin’s key design elements. Collectively, they have created the friendly, walkable environment that is the heart of our downtown’s uniqueness and appeal,” White says.
Upon Halprin’s death, the New York Times referred to him as the “tribal elder of American landscape architecture.” A quick Google search of Halprin reveals his many accomplishments: alongside Ghirardelli Square and the United Nations Plaza in San Francisco and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC, is none other than our “Main Street, Greenville, SC.”