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City of Greenville to relocate Public Works department

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 The city of Greenville’s Public Works department is currently headquartered on a floodplain near downtown. The city is in the process of implementing a $22 million plan to move the department near Clemson University International Center for Automotive Researchand Duke Energy. (Photo/Bill Poovey)

Greenville Mayor Knox White uses some pretty powerful language to describe the city’s current public works location near downtown Greenville.

But, in this case, the words aren’t exactly positive. It could be one of the reasons why the city has elected to spend $22 million to move the Public Works department from 360 S. Hudson St. to a parcel of land on Fairforest Way, south of Laurens Street near Mauldin Road.

“It’s been a project on our platter for about 10 years,” White said. “The reason is because the public works facility is blighted, and it is pretty disgraceful. In terms of work environment, it is crowded, and it also happens to be directly adjacent to the Reedy River and you would never be able to place it there today.”

Not to mention that the current location of the offices is in a flood plain and right next to A.J. Whittenburg Elementary.

“The location on Fairforest is on nice, flat ground, and it is right next to the Duke facility … which is nowhere near water, and we were quite serious about that,” White said.

Mike Pry, architect with DP3 Architects, is the primary architect for the city on the new location on Fairforest Way. He said the city started with a master plan in 2011, on which Pry and DP3 worked with Seamon Whiteside & Associates. The plan was presented to the city in 2013 which included a $12.5 million, multiphase development for a new park located near the Reedy River.

“It was understood that as the city evolved, the plan might change,” Pry said.

And change it did. Pry said the scope of the park and public works shifted. Originally, the public works relocation was to cost the city approximately $18 million, but that increased to $22 million as the new public works campus was expanded to accommodate additional services.

“It relocates all of the functions that are in the current location, which includes administration and emergency operations center and the stormwater, streets and solid waste department,” Pry said. “It also includes the fleet maintenance department, as well as a fuel island and auto wash.”

Construction was scheduled to begin at the end of April, and Pry said building drawings for the new facility on Fairforest Way are in the permitting stages.

That leaves the potential for a new park on Hudson Street, a project that White has taken under his wing to see to fruition. In 2000, he said the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and Clemson University completed a study on the Reedy River that called for the removal of the public works department.

“This area, going all the way back to 1907, there is a master plan that recommends a series of parks, and one of the areas that was recommended was Cleveland Park,” White said. “Then there was the area where public works is located, so it isn’t new.”

He said the focus now is implementing the concept that started at the turn of the 20th century. Another reason for the park is, as White believes, there is a growing need and want for green space in Greenville. That leads to his plan to use tourism dollars to help fund the green space and private dollars for other elements of the park, such as playground equipment, bridges and an amphitheater.

White said the Greenville Community Foundation will help lead the charge for those private dollars. It is a similar effort to that of Falls Park, which was built for $14 million, all of which was hospitality tax dollars.

“I am pretty confident that, once we have a plan, the community will get behind that plan.” White said.

MKSK of Columbus, Ohio, was hired to lead the design effort for the new park. White said they are in the process of looking at previous concepts of the park and working on refining a proposed look to the new space. He said the design work should be completed by the summer.

“I’ve been meeting with CEOs of major companies for years, taking them to the site and giving tours, and we have a number of people who are interested in being a part,” White said. “People ask me all the time what I think the next big thing in Greenville will be, and I think this park will be it.”

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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