Yours truly was a member of one of the many teams to interview this week for a chance to participate in the healthy communities initiative for the Sterling community in Greenville, S.C. The Bon Secours/St. Francis Hospital in that neighborhood is the lead organization of the Phoenix League, which is spearheading the effort to help Sterling rise from the ashes. There are rumors that there was a healthy competition among planning consultants for this job....including 30 firms, some from as far away as Philly and Denver...Yikes!
Greenville is a way cool city and I can see why folks would be eager to get work here. It has a pedestrianized downtown that is always well populated with people of all stripes and is strung with an enormous variety of local businesses (a sign of a truly healthy and attractive downtown). It has the rare asset of tumbling river with a roaring waterfall passing right through downtown, and wonderfully landscaped streets, parks and greenways. On top of all those assets it has a well-lived character, retaining many of its historic buildings, and you can tell Greenvillians really love their downtown.
Unfortunately, like many minority communities in the South, the Sterling community, which is just a fifteen minute walk from downtown, hardly has anything in terms of infrastructure & Greenville like amenities...except it does have a wonderfully intimate and neighborly character, mainly due to its very old, tight-knit neighborhood fabric. This community also has a keen sense of its history. Among the Sterling High School's alma matter include none other but Rev. Jesse Jackson.
And it does seem to have plenty of hope. I love the plaintive spirit in the Phoenix League's video. Who can help not wanting to be part of this project? Stealing great ideas from Vancouver's Crown Street and Seattle's SEA Streets (and various Flickr images), the video actually inspired me to create my own improvement concept for Sterling's wonderfully intimate streets:
I practice architecture and urban design in Charlotte, N.C., often as a consultant in transportation projects. The rest of my time I help layout the developments of the clients of the firm I work for. While I'd like to be an urbanist, if anything, I'm an expert in the layout of parking lots. For now, just consider me an "aspiring urbanist", until governments allow me to practice what I preach.