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Michelin Corporate Foundation donates $1M to Greenville’s Unity Park project

Hospitality and Tourism
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The Michelin Corporate Foundation today announced a $1 million donation to protect and restore a span of the Reedy River that runs through Greenville’s Unity Park. It is the largest contribution to the park project to date.

Greenville-based Auro Hotels announced a $500,000 gift in March to support the park. By the time the city broke ground on the project in May, the park had garnered more than $6 million in support. The city said then that Michelin was on board, but the amount of the contribution wasn’t known publicly until today.

“As a global company committed to improving mobility for all, this investment supports Michelin’s purpose to provide a better way forward for the communities and employees where it operates,” a Michelin North America news release said.  

The Michelin Corporate Foundation gift will support the restoration of the half-mile section of the Reedy River that bisects Unity Park. Along its banks, an expansive greenspace will be named Michelin Green, the release said.

Adjacent to the park visitor center and as the central focal point of the park, Michelin Green will serve as Unity Park’s gathering place and lawn seating area for the park’s outdoor stage, the release said.

“As a member of the Greenville business community for over 40 years, Michelin is honored to partner with the city of Greenville to bring this beautiful nine-acre space to life for Greenville residents and visitors alike,” Joanie Martin, chief administrative officer at Michelin North America, said in the release. “In the spirit of mobility that brings people together from all backgrounds and walks of life, we look forward to multiple generations of families that will enjoy fellowship and recreation throughout Michelin Green.”

The 60-acre Unity Park is a transformational public-private project on the west side of Greenville that will knit together historic downtown neighborhoods, Mayor Knox White said in May. The park will encourage recreation, inclusiveness, exercise and sociability, he said. The city has set aside 8.3 acres of land it owns on the edges of the park for affordable housing. 

“Michelin altered the economic trajectory of our community when it opened a tire plant in Greenville County and established its North American headquarters here in 1985,” Greenville Mayor Knox White said in the release. “The vision of Francois Michelin, the grandson of the company's founder, transitioned Greenville from a textile town to a diversified manufacturing city and paved the road for other international businesses to locate here.

“Almost 35 years later, the company is again helping to reshape our community with this generous grant from the Michelin Corporate Foundation to preserve green space and protect the Reedy River. The company's partnership in the transformative Unity Park project adds to Francois Michelin’s legacy and Michelin's extraordinary impact on the Upstate and our community.”

The city of Greenville began demolishing its former Public Works campus in May, at the corner of Mayberry and Hudson streets, marking the beginning of construction of the 60-acre park. Portions of the park are expected to open in 2021.

The Auro Hotel gift is sponsoring the Auro Bridge. Company President and CEO D.J Rama said to him the bridge symbolizes how Greenville reached out to minority families such as his. Other supporters include Synnex Corp., which is sponsoring the Synnex Share the Magic Playground; the Community Foundation of Greenville; and the TD Charitable Foundation. In addition, local businessman Wayne Trotter has donated land adjacent to the park to the Greenville Housing Fund for affordable housing, the release said.

The project involves rehabilitation of a half-mile stretch of the Reedy River, restoration of Mayberry Park built in 1927 and construction of playgrounds, the pedestrian bridge, gathering hall and visitor center, according to earlier reports. The city has committed $28 million of tourism-generated taxes, $5 million in storm water funds and $2.3 million in utility line burial money toward the $40 million first phase of the park.

“Cities around the country are working to create open green space and striving to overcome the threat of gentrification,” White said in an earlier news release. “Greenville is taking steps to create a bulwark against these market forces to ensure that nearby residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the park can stay in their homes.”

The Michelin Corporate Foundation was created in January 2014 on the initiative of Jean-Dominique Senard, former president of the Michelin Group, the news release said. The foundation operates in five key areas: sustainable mobility, education and community, protecting the environment, sport and health, and heritage and the arts.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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