Greenville’s new Unity Park recently received $1 million from the Michelin Corporate Foundation to help protect and restore part of the Reedy River.

Michelin’s donation is the largest contribution to the park to date. The river restoration will be an early part of the park project.

To honor Michelin’s gift, the city will name Unity Park’s 9-acre green space “Michelin Green.” A half-mile section of the Reedy River splits the park and runs along the green space.

Unity Park
A rendering of the future site of Michelin Green. Rendering by MKSK Landscape Architects.

Michelin Green will function as both the park’s gathering place and lawn seating for the outdoor stage.

“In the spirit of mobility that brings people together from all backgrounds and walks of life, Michelin hopes that the project will encourage recreation, inclusiveness, exercise, and sociability for Greenville residents and visitors alike,” a spokeswoman for the company said. “As a global company that employs nearly 9,000 employees in the Greenville area, Michelin is hopeful that this restoration will continue to attract top talent and international business to the Upstate area.”

A longtime corporate citizen of Greenville, Michelin brings people to the community from all over the world.

“Michelin has been part of the Greenville community for nearly 40 years and is proud to partner with the city of Greenville on the beautification of Unity Park,” a spokeswoman for the company said. “Consistent with the commitments and values of the Michelin Group, the Michelin Corporate Foundation thoughtfully uses its resources to make a meaningful and measurable difference in the lives of people by creating sustainable value and stronger communities.”

Greenville Mayor Knox White said Unity Park is seeing a great response from the corporate community. “But, Michelin is special because Michelin was the first to reach out to me almost five years ago to begin the discussion about Unity Park and what it’ll mean to the community,” he said.

Improving quality of life and encouraging the sustainable mobility of local residents are important missions for Michelin, and White said creating parks and green spaces allows for both.

“[Michelin] always recognized it was critically important to maintain a high quality of life in our community as we grow since we’re in such a growing community,” he said. “Balancing our growth and quality of life are why parks and green spaces are so important to that.”

The 60-acre Unity Park is intended to unite Greenville and be a park for all people. White said that means the park will address the immediate neighborhood — and its history and future — and will embrace newcomers while recognizing Greenville’s history of foreign investment.

Unity Park
Greenville Mayor Knox White; Joanie Martin, chief administrative officer of Michelin North America; and Leesa Owens, director of state, local government, and community relations for Michelin North America. Photo provided.

“Altogether — the river, the falls, the green space — goes to the core of who we are and what we value,” White said. “I think if we keep a focus on that, we’ll continue to set Greenville apart in terms of a growing community that gets it right when it comes to growth.”

Mary Duckett, longtime resident of the Southernside neighborhood, said Michelin Green will beautify the area. 

“It’s going to put pride within those of us who remember what it used to look like,” she said. “And the good news is that there’s something about green spaces that make people feel secure.”

As a park for all, Unity Park stands for security and freedom in Duckett’s eyes. “To go somewhere where it’s nice and cool, you see the beautiful green, you see different people co-mingling together; it just does something for my spirit,” she said. “And I hope it will for everyone else.”

Duckett said she was thrilled to see Michelin make such a “fabulous donation” and wants to see other organizations follow in its footsteps.

“With an investment into the park and this community, you are investing it into the future of the next generation,” Duckett said. “The word ‘unity’ speaks for itself.”

Video from May 2, 2019.

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