When the wife and I moved to Greenville, SC from Washington DC, we didn’t really know anyone. I set a meeting with mayor to talk about the city, the local economy, and get a sense of what’s in store for the metro area. We spoke for almost an hour and I enjoyed the conversation very much. I didn’t think my meeting request was weird at the time, but everybody now laughs at the mere mention of it. Anyway, I told the mayor that the main reason we chose Greenville over other cities across the southeast was the city council’s commitment to urban redevelopment and the relatively low cost of living. He suggested I write a guest column for the local paper about our decision-making process, so I did.
The editor accepted the piece and then held it for months. They finally ran it the day before the mayoral primary. Coincidence?
Greenville’s Investments Pay Big Dividends
Falls Park put city at top of list for one young couple
Monday, June 11, 2007 – 2:00 am
Immediately after our honeymoon in 2005, my wife and I were informed by our landlord that he was selling our apartment on Capitol Hill. So following a very hectic six months, we now had about 11 months to find a new place to live. That news wasn’t entirely unwelcome. We were a couple in our late 20s already thinking about making some changes.
So we figured we’d use our remaining months to “city shop.”
As my wife and I casually offered up destinations that might hold the key to our future together, a pattern slowly emerged. It appeared that every time I made a suggestion, it was shot down by my better half with the nonchalance of a person waving off cream for their coffee: Burlington, VT — too cold; Tacoma, WA — too rainy; The Twin Cities area — too Midwestern.
Conversely, either my wife ‘s suggestions were more reasonable or I’m just a more reasonable person, but her suggestions seemed to make more sense. We were looking for a specific blend urban revival and rural charm. We wanted all the advantages of living in a city where a family can walk to downtown shopping, dining and entertainment, only without the astronomical price tags that were commonplace in DC.
We agreed that the city didn’t have to be huge to accommodate needs and desires. Immediately, Atlanta and Birmingham were out. They seemed to have lots of drawbacks but few advantages when compared to some of the more charming cities throughout the southeast.
We considered Chattanooga, Tenn, Savannah, Ga., and Richmond, Va., but nothing seemed to fit. Then my wife became fixated on Asheville, N.C. I told her that if we were planning to spend another three-day weekend city shopping though beds-and-breakfasts in Asheville, we might as well spend one night in Greenville.
I had some friends who attended Furman, so I was somewhat familiar with the city and very familiar with Blue Ridge Brewery. We spent two days in Asheville and were less than impressed. Although the city and natural landscape were absolutely beautiful, we felt the real estate market was inflated, the city’s revenue was totally dependent on tourism, and the air was flavored with the smell of a different kind of smoke.
When we arrived in Greenville, it was a cold, damp day in early March. We couldn’t check into the B&B for another couple of hours, so we explored downtown for a while. Lunch was casual and cheap, and the General Store went over well with my wife.
But it wasn’t until we saw Falls Park on the Reedy River that Greenville jumped to the top of our list. As we walked atop, around and under the Liberty Bridge, we imagined picnics and bike rides and all the things that had made living a few blocks from the National Mall worthwhile. We weaved down North and South Main Streets and into the West End. We admired the ample parking, the apt ballpark and the amiable people we met along the way.
We were also impressed by the foresight of the city’s leaders. As with every public works project, there are always detractors. It’s difficult for some people to imagine that a large investment now will indirectly pay dividends later, especially when there are so many worthwhile programs that need funding, but it’s true. My wife and I are those dividends.
We moved here because of the city center and affordable residential areas. We moved because of the urban look that hides a deeper sense of community. We’ve embraced Greenville and we thank the citizenry for embracing us. Because of the city’s investment, I now work for a local logistics company and my wife works at Shannon Forest Christian School.
We eat our meals here, we buy our merchandise here and we pay our taxes here. We’re currently looking for a house in the North Main area so we can eventually raise our children here. Because Greenville met us halfway, we’ve decided to throw our money in with everyone else’s. And we couldn’t be happier about it.
Here’s a screenshot of the web version of the column. After this ran, I got hammered by every non-denominational church, mortgage broker and real estate agent in the GSA metro area. I had a cut-and-paste response that I used to reply to them all until I just started ignoring them completely.
I’m not bringing this up for any particular reason. Like I said on the About Me page, this site serves as a sort of web-based scrapbook that I can search wirelessly. I just wanted to get this column on here once and for all. And just for the record, the essay I submitted was wittier and more grammatically correct than the edited version you see here. I’ve only written one other column for this paper, but it got butchered down into a nonsensical letter to the editor.