Unity Park is expected to span 60 acres. Rendering provided by City of Greenville / MKSK

Unity Park is getting closer to construction. The city is getting more affordable housing. Parking and public transportation are still generating headlines. In the city of Greenville, growth and the issues surrounding it dominated the top news stories of 2018.

Rendering provided by city of Greenville / MKSK

Unity Park plans announced

While actual construction of Unity Park won’t begin until late 2019, the city is working on its newest signature park planned for west of downtown on the city’s former public works campus. The park’s name, announced in May, was chosen to reflect that the park will be a place for everyone. At one time, the area was home to two parks, one for blacks and the other for whites. The first phase of the park is estimated to cost $41.2 million and will include a pedestrian bridge over the Reedy River, a destination playground and water feature, Welborn Square, a visitor’s center and gathering hall, a great lawn, and improvements to Hudson Street and the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Private funds will help pay for the park, and $1.875 million had been raised as of this month. Future phases could include an observation tower, wetland restoration, and a nature area.

Former Greenville City Manager John Castile now heads the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority. File photo by Greg Beckner

City manager stepped down, search for new manager begins 

After eight years as Greenville’s city manager, John Castile announced in May that he was stepping down. His last day with the city was Aug. 31. He wasn’t out of work long. Castile was named the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority’s executive director in September. Nancy Whitworth, the city’s deputy city manager and economic development director, is serving as interim city manager until City Council hires a full-time replacement. The council interviewed two finalists in October but decided not to hire either one. A third finalist dropped out to become city manager for Asheville, North Carolina.

By federal government definition, affordable housing takes no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Will Crooks/Greenville Journal

City works to address affordable housing

The Greenville Housing Trust Fund, established last year as a way for the city to address an affordable-housing shortage, made its first round of loans in 2018. The Greenville City Council established the independent, nonprofit fund after a 2016 study showed that the city had a shortage of more than 2,500 affordable-housing units. The city provided $2 million in initial funding, and City Council voted in October to earmark an additional $1.5 million from its budget surplus. Last month, the Greenville Housing Trust Fund announced a new homeowner-preservation program that will provide money to nonprofit and local government sponsors to help homeowners make repairs so they can remain in their homes.

McPherson Lane controversy 

Scores of neighborhoods in the city have undergone traffic-calming efforts, but none were as controversial as McPherson Lane. Residents in a five-block area off Augusta Street were overwhelmingly in favor of making a barricade that turned one block of McPherson into a one-way street, and City Council approved the measure in May. The issue divided the neighborhood. Residents of the five streets said they were promised the barricade as an answer to their concerns over increased traffic from a redeveloped strip shopping center on Augusta Street that houses Verizon Wireless and Moe’s Southwest Grill. Residents of other streets in the neighborhood said their streets were being adversely affected. A lawsuit has been filed in the case. The city has said it is changing its traffic-calming process and one-ways will no longer be an option for neighborhoods.

Parking and public transportation to be addressed

A group of downtown business leaders formed the Downtown Transportation Coalition and is demanding a better public transit system, saying that a lack of parking and a viable bus system threatens the city’s ability to attract and retain employers. Greenlink has said it needs $5 million more annually to expand service to more areas of the county, improve bus frequency, and extend hours, and $7 million for one-time capital expenses for more buses. Greenlink’s long-range plan also calls for opening a new maintenance facility, something for which the bus system recently received an $11 million federal grant. The grant requires a $2.75 million local match. City Council has earmarked $1.4 million of the city’s budget surplus for part of the local match. The city will also use $1 million of the surplus to buy new buses and refurbish the current fleet.

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