Columbia City Council unanimously approved a measure Tuesday night allowing city staff to begin working with Charlotte-based Whitewater Holdings LLC on plans to redevelop Finlay Park.
The city put out a request for proposals on the Finlay Park development in August, and only Whitewater Holdings, which runs the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, responded. The action by City Council on Tuesday is not a final contract but allows city manager Teresa Wilson and other city staff to collaborate with Whitewater Holdings on a conceptual design for Finlay Park.
“This is a beginning, not an ending,” said Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin. “We’ve been very careful to go through a very intentional procurement process that is fully infused with the vision that the community has expressed … and we feel that this is a very exciting opportunity.”
Benjamin added that the public will have the opportunity to provide input on any plans for the park.
Jonathan Comish, president of the Arsenal Hill Neighborhood Association, told council that he was glad to see “an innovative solution to what has been considered an intractable problem,” and said that he has been forming a group of community stakeholders to help guide the city as it moves forward.
“We think that there’s a great opportunity here for the city to extend the Main Street renaissance all the way down to the river, which I think has been a goal of the city for quite some time,” Comish said.
A final contract must be approved by City Council before any work can be done.
Finlay Park, one of the largest parks in Columbia, opened in 1990 but has deteriorated because of deferred maintenance and challenges in the original construction that have led to infrastructure failures, according to the city’s request for proposals.