COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Finlay Park in downtown Columbia was once known as the crown jewel of the Capital City.
But over the years, the park fell into disrepair and hasn't recovered. The iconic fountain hasn't run in several years and the park has become a place where the homeless congregate.
But the face of Finlay Park may soon change.
On Thursday, after years of complaints from residents and business leaders alike, Columbia city leaders including Mayor Steve Benjamin unveiled a design and comprehensive plan Thursday to breathe life into the park, which sits largely unused. The design features a newly engineered pond, with waterways & waterfalls, a stage built into a hillside, a restored Fountain, a destination playground and green space.
Mayor Benjamin said the park used to be a crown jewel of the city and this plan will bring the park back to life within two years.
Councilman Ed McDowell said despite concerns about homelessness and crime at the park right now, the park will be secure and will be enjoyed by residents and families alike.
"Several months ago we started this conversation on some security issues at the park and we brought in several providers to talk about what some of the needs were out there," McDowell said.
"Of course we want everyone to use the park- this is a public park. But we want everyone who uses the park to be and feel secure."
The total cost of the restoration is $18 million, which the city council will have to approve. How the city will finance the project is yet to be determined.
Mayor Benjamin said the project and the funding are not dependent on private partnerships, but the city will enlist private companies to help develop the park in the future and potentially occupy the newly acquired post office site on Assembly Street.
"We're building a sustainable park with what would be a sustainable financing structure. And the park is indeed connected to the urban infrastructure " Benjamin said.
Those who support the development of Finlay Park say the area is a vital cog for economic development in the Vista / Main Street corridor.
The council will likely take up the Finlay Park Restoration at their next meeting on Nov. 19.
City leaders expect final approval from the council by the end of the year. You can see renderings for the redevelopment of Finlay Park below.
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