Council gets idea of how City Park could be built

But question remains about how Greenville will pay for it all

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Like its predecessor Falls Park, City Park, Greenville’s new signature park planned on the west side, will have to be done in phases.

“Phasing is a critical aspect,” said Darren Meyer, principal of the urban design and landscape architecture firm MKSK, the consultant hired by the city to come up with a plan for the park as well as the area surrounding it. “The driving consideration is what will provide the greatest community benefit in the first phase.” The 350-acre area included in the MKSK study is roughly the size of Greenville’s downtown, and “downtown wasn’t developed all at once,” Meyer said.

Meyer told City Council there’s a plethora of funding sources that could be used to pay for projects that will be included in the final plan — from brownfield grants to federal, state or local transportation funds and from private donors to city funds including hospitality funds and capital improvement funds. Mayor Knox White, a staunch proponent of the park, said he thinks the city should issue a bond and pay for the work with expected hospitality tax revenue, much like it did to pay for Falls Park. But other City Council members said it’s too early to commit to that.

“We know what we have and what we want,” Councilwoman Jil Littlejohn said. “We’re really trying to get a clearer understanding of the finances. I’m for using hospitality tax money, like we did for Falls Park. I’m not against issuing a bond but I’m not for it, either. It really depends on the terms of the deal.”

City officials have said City Park and the expected development around it will transform that area of Greenville, much like Falls Park and subsequent projects transformed the West End.

Phases and funds

Meyer said the first phase of City Park could cost $10.9 million, or $545,000 per acre for the 20 acres on the Welborn Street side of the park. That estimate includes a great lawn, a “sprayground,” a picnic area, basketball courts and the transformation of Welborn Street into a pedestrian promenade.

An additional $7.9 million would be needed for roadwork and bridges to make the park area more accessible to neighborhood residents and downtown visitors, Meyer said. First phase roadwork would include extending Mulberry Street to connect it to Mayberry Street, giving the park a connection to Stone Avenue. That would require building a bridge over the railroad tracks near Willard Street. Roadwork on the east side of the park would include improvements to part of Hudson Street to “create a front door to the park,” Meyer said.

The estimate is comparable to costs cited in a 2013 City Park Master Plan, which said a 30-acre park would cost $13 million. That project would cost $15.5 million today with the escalation of construction costs in the past four years. The 2013 estimate did not include demolition of the current public works facility, environmental remediation, moving existing utilities, streets or property acquisition.

Demolition of the current public works facility could be the second phase. Work could begin on that in September or October of 2017, once the new public works complex on Fairforest Way is completed. He said the current public works site could be prepped so the space is usable and redeveloped within the park as money became available. Demolition could cost $3.5 million, Meyer said.

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River restoration

Meyer said the city owns 52 parcels in and around the proposed park site, 26 acres of which is developable because it is outside of the floodplain. The city has said it wants to increase affordable housing in the area. “That’s a funding source for the park itself,” he said.

“You are tackling the next generation of issues for cities, and that’s equities,” Meyer said. “You’re looking at not just affordable housing, but affordable living.”

The park project includes restoration of the Reedy River. A channel with steep banks and a reduced natural floodplain causes floodwaters to rise quickly. Bank stability is threatened. MKSK proposes to expand the active floodplain by excavating a bankfull bench – a flat or shallowly sloped area above the water level, or stage, at which a river is at the top of its banks and any further rise would result in water moving into the flood plain.

. The plan preserves significant trees and uses vegetation to reduce erosion and to filter sediment. The plan creates accessible view sheds of natural bedrock features and integrates a pedestrian trail system into the expanded flood zone.

Meyer told the council that although restoration work on the Reedy River is not specifically included in the first or second phase, work on the river actually would begin right away because it will take a while to get through the permitting process. “That’s one of the most eligible for funding opportunities,” he said. “We need to get to work quickly on permitting and funding possibilities.” The mayor said city could potentially get millions of dollars in mitigation credits from the Reedy River work. Mitigation banking is a system of credits and debits devised to ensure that ecological loss, especially to wetlands and streams, is compensated for by the preservation and restoration of wetlands and streams in other areas so that there is no let loss to the environment.

Park amenities include:

  • A great lawn
  • The Gathering Hall Stage
  • Mayberry Field
  • A destination playground
  • A garden walk and community gardens
  • A new pedestrian bridge over the Reedy River
  • Picnic Pavilions
  • An adult fitness area and climbing wall
  • A “sprayground” water feature

 

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