Parks — from the city’s new signature park west of downtown to neighborhood parks scattered throughout the city to the venerable Cleveland Park — would be the big winners in Greenville’s proposed capital improvement plan for next year.
Right now, parks and recreation will get nearly $5.7 million in capital improvement project money, the vast majority of that going to neighborhood park improvements, the first phase of the signature City Park, and to develop the former Cleveland Park Stables property given to the city by a benefactor in 2012.
Action pending before the state legislature will determine whether all of the projects included in the more than $19.1 million plan will stay in when the Greenville City Council approves its annual capital budget in late May. The city plans to finance almost one-third of the capital project plan from its general fund. That could change depending on how much money will have to come out of city coffers for its share of the General Assembly plan to fix the state pension system and whether a stalled business license reform bill that targets one of the city’s biggest revenue sources is revived.
Jill Cox, the widow of former Daniel Construction President Charles Cox, didn’t want to see apartments built on the Cleveland Park Stables site on Woodland Way. She was at physical rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery in 2012 when she read about neighborhood residents fighting a rezoning request that would have allowed construction of up to 40 high-end apartments across from where the city’s former dog park was located. She decided to buy the property and donate it to the city as an extension of Cleveland Park.
The capital improvement plan includes $500,000 to develop the property. A plan approved in 2013 calls for a covered formal entryway into the property, a 13-space semicircular parking lot, an open lawn, a river overlook with education panels, fencing, wildflowers, and azaleas.
Feeling the pressure
City Manager John Castile said there’s a need for additional park space in Cleveland Park.
“That park gets so much pressure,” he said.
After the stables project is complete and Renewable Water Resources’ “Big Dig” underground sewer line project, which will take some of Cleveland Park’s parking, is complete, Castile said it might be time to do a master plan for Cleveland Park, Greenville’s first signature park. Mayor Knox White said parking is a problem in the park. “A couple of years ago, the Cleveland Forest Neighborhood Association didn’t want to talk about closing roads inside the park. Maybe feelings have changed. We can’t deal with the parking until we deal with the throughway.”
Neighborhood parks are slated to get $2.04 million of the capital improvement project money. The money will come from an agreement with Greenville County to share some of the tax money generated by the reorganization of the county’s recreation department four years ago.
“If we upgrade the neighborhood parks, it could take pressure off Cleveland Park,” said Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle, who has pushed for the city to pay attention to its smaller parks scattered across the city.
Fifty-eight percent of city residents live within a half-mile of a park or community center. In District 1, which encompasses the North Main and East North Street area, 67 percent of residents are within a half-mile of a park. That falls to 42 percent in District 4, a more industrial and commercial part of the city that includes Gower Park, Legacy Park at Hollingsworth, and the Wenwood Soccer Complex.
Laundry list of needs
The city’s parks and recreation department evaluated the city’s 34 neighborhood parks and found a laundry list of needs — from accessibility issues to fields that needed new fencing, tennis and basketball courts that needed resurfacing, restrooms that needed major repair, and playground equipment that had gotten to the end of its useful life.
Under the plan, Gower Park would get new and renovated restroom facilities, playground equipment, and renovated picnic shelters. McPherson Park would get a new bridge and miniature golf course along with repaired shelters. At Timmons Park, baseball field lighting would be upgraded, restrooms replaced, picnic shelters repaired, tennis courts resurfaced, and accessibility improved.
Other parks would get help, too. The West Greenville Community Center would get $100,000 in lighting, electrical, and heating and air conditioning improvements, while $100,000 is earmarked for shelter repairs in 13 parks.
Mary Steinbach, the city’s new parks and recreation director, said most of the neighborhood parks projects on the list wouldn’t rise to capital improvement project status by themselves, but they do collectively. And doing several new playgrounds or paving and restriping basketball and tennis courts throughout the system could yield better prices.
The first phase of the new City Park gets $2 million in CIP funds under the proposal. The City Council passed a resolution last month signaling its intent to issue revenue bonds to pay for components eligible for tourism-related funding, providing the annual debt is no greater than $2 million per year for 20 years.
City Park is expected to transform downtown Greenville’s western flank, much like Falls Park and subsequent projects transformed the West End. The park has already been a catalyst for commercial and residential development even though groundbreaking likely won’t occur until spring 2018.
The CIP also includes $1 million each for new sidewalks and street resurfacing. It also sets aside $400,000 for the Piedmont Natural Gas Connector Road that could relieve 20 percent of traffic on the busiest part of Woodruff Road. In addition, there’s money to repair a timber bridge on Old Sulphur Springs Road.