Book Review: Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America

Book cover, Reimagining Greenville by John Boyanoski & Knox White

If you’re an urban planner, elected official, or real estate developer interested in redevelopment at a local level, Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America is the book for you.

Home to 70,000 residents, Greenville is a small city nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western South Carolina that was once known as the textile capital of the United States. In love with the automobile, Americans in the 60’s and 70’ were suddenly driving more than they were walking, and shopping malls began to pop up on the outskirts of cities. Migration to the suburbs followed, and like many downtown districts throughout the country, Greenville became hollowed out and unsafe.

While most American cities turned their backs on their downtowns, Greenville chose a different path. The city’s leadership reimagined their downtown, and for the better part of the past four decades, it has consistently invested in the city’s historic business district. As a result, Greenville was recently recognized as the #6 Best City in the U.S., according to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers Choice Awards.

Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America is a case study in urban redevelopment. The small Southern city was not an overnight success story, but it is one of the finest examples of urban reinvention in the United States. This inspiring, short book written by John Boyanoski and Greenville Mayor Knox White takes readers step-by-step along Greenville’s 40 +year journey as they conceived and implemented their long-term vision for Greenville reinvention. Greenville succeeded because it came up with a vision in the 1970’s and stuck with it. Later the city focused on developing it’s natural assets (the Reedy River), invested in a number of game-changing development projects that attracted residents and visitors to downtown and most importantly encouraged mixed-use development. This inspiring book about Greenville makes for a great case study on how to reimagine your city.