Greenville is experiencing a period of unprecedented economic expansion and record growth. The secret of our exceptional quality of life is out, and we are receiving national attention. As a result, businesses, families, and visitors are coming to Greenville to see it for themselves. With growth can come anxiety as the old Greenville evolves into something new.
Greenville is proud to have its award-winning downtown and its mix of housing, office space, churches, schools, retail, restaurants, entertainment, and green and open spaces. We recognize with every new project comes questions about finding the right balance. At City Hall, daily discussions are centered around balance, as well as equity and quality of life for our citizens.
As I speak with folks throughout Greenville, I hear concerns about the pace of change. People are worried that things are changing too fast. I sympathize with residents; however, I am excited about the possibility of what we can create if we work together. I believe this growth provides a special opportunity to continue our investment in our neighborhoods, parks, and trails and give them the attention they deserve.
In this year’s budget, the city expands from its heavy downtown focus to neighborhoods. Over $500,000 will be invested as a catalyst for growth on critical commercial gateways such as Augusta Street, Laurens Road, and Stone Avenue. In this past year, the city invested $2.8 million — one of the largest public investments outside of downtown — in Wade Hampton Boulevard’s NorthPointe project. This money will be invested in streetscaping, which will ensure the project is walkable and accessible to the eight surrounding neighborhoods.
One success that makes downtown vibrant — its walkability — is also true for neighborhoods. Three upcoming sidewalk projects connect to neighborhood parks: University Park, Croftstone Park, and the Nicholtown Community Center. The NSTEP sidewalk construction program has built over 10 miles of sidewalk since the program began in 2008, and the city invests $1 million in new sidewalk construction every year.
In addition, the city’s budget includes another $2.8 million for neighborhood parks. This is a big step forward in investing in green spaces and neighborhoods. Did you know that 58 percent of city residents live within a half mile of a public park or community center, or that the city has 450 acres of green space and 35 neighborhood and pocket parks? To ensure that the trail system expands to reach more neighborhoods, $1.1 million has been set aside to explore the feasibility of a new Laurel Creek trail, which the 2008 Trails and Greenways Master Plan recommended.
While the city and community leaders have shown a strong commitment to building a new city park in West Greenville, we will not forget the small pocket parks in your neighborhoods. Amenities such as the mini-golf course and historic bridges at McPherson Park, the tennis courts at Holmes and Gower Parks, the basketball courts at Pinkney-Fludd Park, the playground at Skyland Park, the wooded walking trails, baseball field, and restrooms at Timmons Park, and many more are scheduled for upgrades in the next 12 months.
Cities across the country are building intelligently designed infrastructure including transportation, roads, trails, parks, green spaces, renewable energy, and water management systems. Once considered sleepy public works infrastructure, they are now dynamic projects that draw people in and have become an exciting part of our 21st-century urban landscape.
Parks are central to that infrastructure, playing a critical role in helping our cities thrive, and they are good for our health. Families and businesses want to locate next to parks and trails. This helps create jobs and contributes to urban renewal.
We must continue to build private and public relationships to develop green space. Many of our parks were originally land donations by Greenville’s prominent philanthropic families. Many cities have park conservancies to enhance the revitalization of green space in urban environments. The city of Greenville’s Tree Foundation is a good start for such a parks advocacy group.
Parks — like cities, businesses, institutions, and all of us — must evolve. Greenville’s focus this year is accommodating the changing needs of neighborhood parks. Let’s continue to invest to ensure the greenest Greenville.
Amy Ryberg Doyle represents District 1 on Greenville City Council.