Unity Park

Greenville, S.C.

Best Project, Landscape/Urban Development

Submitted By: Harper General Contractors

Owner: City of Greenville

Lead Design Firm: MKSK

General Contractor: Harper General Contractors

Civil Engineer: EMH&T

Structural Engineer: Britt, Peters & Associates

MEP Engineer: Carolina Engineering Solutions

Architect: McMillan Pazdan Smith

Subcontractors: Burdette Engineering, Wright Contracting, Morgan Corp, Heirloom Stair & Iron, Bridge Brothers

Unity Park, Greenville’s newest, is bringing new life and vitality to an underutilized space around the Reedy River with four playgrounds, 4,100-sq-ft splash pad, green spaces, architecturally and aesthetically significant picnic shelters and 10,000-sq-ft welcome center and flexible event space.

The now-tranquil park required extensive site work on the 60-acre job site, including bank stabilization and the creation of a secondary channel for the Reedy River, while 750 new and 200 preserved trees will grow into a canopy over the entire park.

The 22-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail runs through the park, connecting it to surrounding neighborhoods and businesses that highlights its community-focused design, which accounted for how affordable housing would develop around it.

The $38.5-million project broke ground in July 2020 and completed work in May 2022. Harper General Contractors served as construction managers at-risk for Greenville’s revitalization effort, designed to attract new life and bring economic vibrancy to an underserved area of West Greenville.

Unity Park

Photo courtesy Harper General Contractors

The Harper project team prioritized the 70-foot pedestrian bridge over the Reedy River six months early, to provide pedestrian access to businesses on either side of the river and park, while construction dealt with the existing pedestrian traffic on the popular Swamp Rabbit Trail, which runs directly through the heart of Greenville.

Unity Park

Photo courtesy Harper General Contractors

Throughout the duration of the project, the Swamp Rabbit Trail was never closed, even as up to 4,000 pedestrians continued to safely utilize the trail over the two-year construction period. The ADA-compliant playground and ADA-accessible Auro Bridge—a critical component for the park—provides ADA-accessible pedestrian connectivity to both sides of the river.

Unity Park

Photo courtesy Harper General Contractors

According to the city, land where the park now greets visitors was among the least desirable in the city: home to a bleak, swampy area that served as a stockade, a dog pound, trash incinerator and two landfills. A police shooting range shared the only area where local children played.

Today, Greenville says, the area has become a place of unity, paying homage to the legacies of surrounding neighborhoods with different park areas named in honor of the area's rich history and city-owned land valued at $8 million set aside for affordable housing to serve as a bulwark against the pressures of gentrification closing in on the area.