For nearly 30 years, Graceland East Memorial Park had 10.8 undeveloped acres at the corner of SC Highway 14 and Woodruff Road, adjacent to their mausoleum and cemetery, and across from Southside Christian School. Their original intent was to use the land to expand their memorial gardens. But in December of last year that changed, as Graceland sold the acreage off to a developer, beginning a controversial battle over use of the prime real estate. That battle may come to an end in July.
Setting the stage for a final decision on land use, which is expected during a July 18th meeting of Greenville County Council, was a decision a few days ago (June 5) by Greenville County Council’s Planning and Development Committee. Their decision was to change the zoning from Residential-Suburban (R-S) to Planned Development (PD). Similar rezoning requests had been denied five times previously.
The developer’s proposal calls for subdividing the property into two parcels:
- Parcel A will consist of 5.86 acres, with the proposed development of a 30,000 square foot grocery store (Sprouts Farmers Market) and 13,200 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office spaces. The applicant has proposed restrictive uses for the entire acreage, preventing future use for things such as liquor sales, automobile service facilities, mini-warehouses, and nightclubs.
- Parcel B will consist of 4.20 acres, with the proposed development of 22,000 square feet for school or office space. The applicant has proposed deeding Parcel B to Southside Christian Academy, which has an interest in building an early childhood facility. The school would be given the option of selling the land, but not for residential use, if it chooses not to develop it.
The applicant is also proposing a pedestrian plaza at the corner of Woodruff Road and SC Highway 14 designed to provide significant landscaping and pedestrian connectivity. The pedestrian plaza will include a fountain or similar focal points. The area where the parcel abuts the cemetery does contain a 6 foot precast concrete wall, with additional landscaping to separate the two uses.
After hearing from speakers both for and against the proposed development, the Planning and Development Committee, chaired by Greenville County councilman Joe Dill, voted to send the ordinance to County Council for a second reading at their June 20th meeting, and if passed, a third and final reading at the July 18th meeting.
The Community Edge contacted councilman Dill about the likelihood that County Council will approve the proposal. “I believe it will pass both the June and July readings, approved as now proposed, but it will be a close vote,” stated Dill. Also contacted for an opinion was Butch Kirven, Chairman of Greenville County Council. He remains uncommitted at this point.
Southside Christian School was established in 1967 as a ministry of Southside Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. After nearly twenty years of consistent growth, Southside moved to its current location on Woodruff Road in 1986, across from Graceland East Memorial Park, which was established in 1981. Its manicured grounds include Mausoleums, lawn crypts, and traditional burial spaces.
The top concern to many in the area, and anyone who is familiar with driving on Woodruff Road or SC Highway 14, is the traffic. The developer’s plan calls for extending the left-hand turn lane going southbound, and the S.C. Department of Transportation is looking at intersection improvements and synchronized lights. During construction, the cemetery also plans to give developers a 24-hour notice of any funerals, in which construction will cease until the ceremony ends.