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Town Common ideas on display

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Those in attendence at an open house at Town Hall look at design schematics for potential rennovations to the Greenville Town Common on Aug. 29, 2016. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Shannon Keith

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ideas to help Greenville’s Town Common “reach its full potential” were on display Monday during an open house at City Hall.

More than 100 people attended the open house to discuss alternatives for the Town Common Phase 2 Design and Development project. The project is part of the Town Common Master Plan, the city’s long-term plan for the development of the 25-acre park.

“I’m pleased with the turnout. ... It shows you care about our Town Common,” Greenville’s Recreation and Parks director, Gary Fenton, said. “This park has always been important, but it hasn’t reached its full potential.”

Representatives from Rhodeside & Harwell Inc. (RHI), a landscape architecture firm in Alexandria, Va., discussed their progress on Town Common Phase 2 designs during Monday’s open house. RHI presented the City Council with design alternatives for the Town Common Phase 1 Design and Development in April.

Earlier this year, the city and design consultants from RHI held a series of public-input meetings where residents could provide suggestions for potential Town Common improvements and the city’s overall plan for the park. RHI based the Phase 1 schematic design alternatives on input from the meetings.

“What we have here tonight builds upon the Phase 1 schematic designs,” RHI’s Elliot Rhodeside said. “And it incorporates the playground currently under construction at the Town Common.”

The design concepts on display Monday included:

• A reconfigured parking concept along First Street to provide additional spaces;

• A kiosk for kayak and canoe rentals;

• Plans to relocate the park’s amphitheater to provide seating for 3,000-5,000 people;

• Public restroom facilities;

• Retail/vendor space along First Street;

• An interactive fountain that could be used as an ice skating rink during the winter;

• A 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot civic/community building with a catering/staging kitchen that could accommodate up to 300 people for events.

The design concepts also included plans to create a “living shoreline” along the Tar River, Rhodeside said. The walkway and chain-link fence along the river would be removed, and the park’s land would gradually be graded to where it meets the water’s edge.

“The bulkhead along that promenade is deteriorating,” Rhodeside said. “It’s only got about 10 to 12 years left in it. Instead of spending the money to rehabilitate or replace it, we will take the park back down to the waterfront in a 21st-century way.”

Design alternatives for a Town Common memorial marking Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church’s original location on First and Greene streets also were on display during Monday’s open house. 

The church, founded about 1867, was first called the African Baptist Church and is one of the city’s oldest congregations. Members changed the church’s name to Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church in the 1880s. In 1917, a large brick church was completed at the corner of First and Greene streets.

As a result of the Shore Drive urban renewal project in the late 1960s, the church building was sold to the city’s Redevelopment Commission, and the congregation was forced to move to Eighth Street in 1968. In 1969, the old church building was destroyed by an arsonist.

Members of the congregation for years have advocated for the creation of a memorial to the church at the site. The church has been on Hooker Road since the 1990s.

Albi McLawhorn from Greenville-based architectural firm MHAworks discussed possible designs the firm is creating from input from members of the church’s congregation. 

“We met with some members of the church today and had a spirited discussion,” McLawhorn said. “We’ve received so much input from them and are trying to flesh out a couple of concepts based on these meetings.”

“These designs are very interesting,” church member Lillian Outterbridge said. “There is some tweaking to be done ... but I think Mr. McLawhorn has been wonderful, and we have enjoyed speaking with him about this project.”

Representatives from RHI are scheduled to present updated Phase 2 design alternatives to the Greenville City Council in the fall for approval.

 

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9579.

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