From Kudzu to Kudos
For the city of Spartanburg, S.C., building community pride came with building a community park where a rundown field once stood.
The sloping seven-acre site was an aging transportation facility on a busy thoroughfare in the city's central business district.
"It was an old kudzu field in the middle of the city that had laid dormant for years," says Spartanburg businessman, Bill Barnet, whose family bought the land and donated it to the city under the plan that it would be developed into a park. "We tried to come up with a way to help the city and do something dramatic. It comes from an appreciation for trees and green space and what these mean to a prosperous and healthy community."
The project turned out so well, any town would be green-spaced with envy. Exquisitely landscaped with many amenities, the park adds tremendous benefits to the city in both recreational value and sheer beauty. It's also become an impressive entertainment venue.
Funded through donations from the city, the Barnets and the local Zimmerli family, the park's centerpiece is the Zimmerli Amphitheater, providing an outdoor theater for musical, dance and drama performances. Offering excellent views with 60-degree audience sightlines, the natural setting is reinforced with semicircular terraced seating of alternating grass and hardscape. More than 100 lighting fixtures strategically placed above the stage and along the floor highlight the performance area and acoustical wall behind. The canopy was designed to integrate the total aesthetic, acoustic, and lighting environment for an unparalleled spectator experience.
The park has become a local hot spot, especially for holiday celebrations like the Fourth of July. Just as importantly, however, it has helped revitalize the central district.
"There are a lot of things going on now that were encouraged by the park," says Barnet, who is now mayor of Spartanburg. "The park has spawned a lot of activity and raised the level of expectations within the community."
Spearheading renewed interest in the downtown, the park is set to anchor one corner of a proposed 112,000-square-foot, $35 million cultural center, celebrating the arts, history and theater. The community has raised these funds almost entirely from private donations.