Greenville’s Positive Economic Momentum is Catching the Eye of Retailers
The city of Greenville and the surrounding submarkets are exploding with growth. The once-sleepy textile town in the Upstate of South Carolina has now become a robust, diversified economy that is garnering interest from retailers that may have overlooked the market in the past. The change in the city of Greenville has not gone unnoticed; several publications and top ten lists have recognized Greenville for its thriving downtown. From the addition of Falls Park in 2004, an approximately 32-acre oasis in the West End of the city, to multiple mixed-use developments under construction, Greenville’s resurgence has brought new residents, new retail and new life to the region.
Growth in the Greenville market has been largely driven by the addition of thousands of new jobs, a low cost of living and highly attractive lifestyle options. Greenville serves as the North American headquarters for BMW, Michelin and Hubbell Lighting, all of which have contributed to significant job growth in the region.
As Greenville’s downtown has continued to draw national recognition, retailers have taken notice. In recent years, Greenville has attracted a multitude of national retailers new to the market. Hughes Development’s Project ONE kicked things off when it brought national retailers like Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie and Orvis to downtown. Lululemon followed shortly after in Hughes Investments’ new Falls Park Place and several others are looking to follow suit.
There has also been an increasing level of interest from regional restaurateurs looking to enter Greenville. Restaurants such as Terrace Café and Brazwell’s (Charlotte), Biscuit Head and Tupelo Honey (Asheville) and Husk, Hall’s Chophouse, Basil, and Caviar and Bananas (Charleston), have all recently migrated to downtown Greenville. This level of activity should continue, as these concepts have been very well received.
The suburban retail scene has continued to flourish as well. National brands like Cabela’s, Nordstrom Rack and The Cheesecake Factory have all recently chosen Greenville for their first location in the state of South Carolina. Other retailers have followed and the expectation is that other brands not currently considering Greenville will soon take a closer look at the region.
One sector that has gained traction is grocery. For years, the region’s grocery market has been dominated by a select few brands, such as Bi-Lo Supermarkets, Ingles, Publix and other traditional grocers. This trend has started to change as three new grocers are in the process of establishing a footprint in the Greenville MSA. Harris Teeter of Charlotte, N.C., Lowes Foods of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Lidl, a German-based grocer, have recently opened multiple locations or have new stores under construction.
Lowes Foods is leading the pack with two recently opened stores, one strategically located in the residential-heavy intersection of Hammett Bridge and Suber roads in Greer, S.C., and the other, which opened in February, on Woodruff Road in Five Forks. Lowes Foods has announced a third location set to open in 2018 on Pelham Road near Interstate 85.
Harris Teeter has implemented a different strategy, focusing on two locations that will flank downtown to the north and south, and pull from areas of high-income demographics. Lewis Plaza on Augusta Road is currently being redeveloped by Avtex Commercial Properties. Central Realty Holdings, a Greenville-based development company, is working on a second location at Northpointe, a mixed-use development featuring approximately 75,000 square feet of commercial space and 284 apartments in the North Main community.
Lidl, which operates more than 10,000 stores in Europe, has begun a vast expansion along the Eastern Seaboard, and currently has two locations under construction in Greenville, one on Wade Hampton Boulevard and another near Furman University. A third location is under construction in nearby Spartanburg.
Grocery development and redevelopment prove to be good news for the local retail market, which has experienced a shortage in inventory due to a recent surge in demand. These developments are a welcomed opportunity for retailers looking to enter the market or expand their presence.
One very notable opportunity on the horizon is the redevelopment of County Square, which is situated on approximately 37.4 acres in downtown Greenville. It is a unique opportunity for developers to take part in a project that will be transformative to Greenville’s already thriving downtown. Greenville County is currently accepting proposals for the redevelopment and has already received interest from several regional and national developers.
While so many markets across the country are expanding in the current economy, Greenville is unique in that many retailers are experiencing our market for the first time and achieving success.
— By Scott Burgess, Brokerage Associate, and Lance Byars, Brokerage Associate, Colliers International. This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Southeast Real Estate Business.