If the city’s ultimate vision for Unity Park is realized, the signature project could have a total price tag of nearly $73 million.
Construction of the park could begin next October, a consultant working on the project told Greenville City Council members on Monday.
The park plan includes restoration of nearly a half mile of the Reedy River, a signature 10-story observation tower, a pedestrian bridge, a destination playground, a sprayground water feature, a great lawn and a boardwalk through a wetland. The plan also includes improvements to Hudson Street.
“The park is a major component but the infrastructure and river restoration is valuable independent of the park features,” said Darren Meyer, principal of MKSK, the landscape and urban planning firm working on the master plan for the park and the surrounding area.
And while the price tag sounds hefty, Mayor Knox White said the vast majority of the money will come from tourism-related taxes and private money, not property-tax dollars. The amount of private money raised will determine whether some amenities will be built, White said.
“There are elements of this park that we may never do,” he said.
The park’s green space, children’s play areas and river restoration would create a wow factor even if nothing else is built, White said.
Interim Assistant City Manager Matt Efird said the city has already spent about $10 million, most of it on land acquisition and planning.
Some of the park’s larger features — the closing off of Welborn Street to create a public square at $4.7 million, a visitor’s center for $3.8 million, a $3.9 million pedestrian bridge, a $3.1 million destination playground, a $2.03 million water feature, a great lawn and shelters at $1.92 million, improvements to the Swamp Rabbit Trail at nearly $1 million — would be paid for through hospitality tax money.
Kai Nelson, the city’s Office of Budget and Management director, said bonding the city’s hospitality tax would yield $27 million. But including $1.25 million in private funding already secured, funding for the projects falls about $2.8 million short. Mayor Knox White said he’s confident that gap can be closed by value engineering.
Private funds would pay for a 10-story observation tower that is expected to cost $6.9 million. Hughes Agency has received a verbal commitment of $1.5 million for the tower. The agency has verbal commitments for another $1.25 million for wetlands restoration, walking paths, and the playground.
Hughes has already secured $1.25 million in signed commitments, including a $250,000 gift from Synnex for the destination playground. Other commitments include $500,000 each for the splashground and the pedestrian bridge, but the donors’ identities have yet to be announced.
The city will use $2.3 million from its commercial undergrounding fund to bury utility lines on Nassau Street, Welborn Street and a part of Hudson Street. A second phase, which would be funded by fiscal year 2021, would bury utility lines on Hudson from the Reedy River to Markley Street.
Demolition of the former public works facility on Hudson Street, estimated to cost $2.45 million, and river restoration work, estimated at $2.8 million, will come from the city’s stormwater fund. The city also has a $260,000 grant.
Nelson said funding sources have not been identified for $3.54 million of streetscape improvements for Hudson Street and another $2.8 million to create a vehicular entrance to the park from Meadow and Trescott streets.
“Hudson Street has got to be a great street,” Meyer said.