Finlay Park: Integrity Above All Else

Case Studies

finlay park aerial shot

The truth can be said about anything in life; if you’re not improving, you’re declining. Finlay Park dates back to the early 1800s with the founding of Columbia, South Carolina. Formerly bestowed as the ‘crown jewel’ of South Carolina’s capital, the park was once the home of effervescent green spaces, performance platforms, and an iconic cascading water fountain that often took center stage in South Carolina tourism commercials. Updated in the 1970s, today’s Finlay Park is over 50 years old, and has lost the majestic charm it once conveyed due to lack of accessibility, poor maintenance, and overall insufficient preservation efforts.

With every project we take on, our first and foremost responsibility is to enhance the lives of community members with our “people-first” approach.

“The success of projects like Finley Park all boils down to those living in the community and the impact reconstruction will have on them,” said Civitas Heath Mizer. “We stepped into our first town meeting, ready to receive any and all feedback, even criticism.  However, the resounding response was both incredibly positive and enthusiastic. “It will be so nice to have a new and improved Finlay Park to take my family,” was a common sentiment shared throughout the community at large.

The revitalization of Finlay Park aims to provide better links to each destination, creating a park-in-motion for the community.  These design moves will improve circulation and engage users through a series of diverse interconnected spaces while increasing accessibility, safety, and visibility throughout the park,” said Heath Mizer.

The community had been aching for nearly half a century for someone to pay respect to their town, to put money into revitalization. The people of the town were more excited than ever to see our team taking the initiative to help them build a stronger community they could feel proud of. This project is the core of who we are at Civitas, and that is elevating communities on all fronts. 

Not only will Civitas be making necessary changes to the park to provide a safer, and more intentional place for those in the community to enjoy, but it is also “a much more responsible and sustainable investment to build off of what is already there. Expanding on the park will enrich the area and bring it up to contemporary programs. Our culture is changing so rapidly, it would be irresponsible to start from scratch every 25 years updating public spaces.

Everyone can benefit from a city park. Children can run around freely, adults can walk their dogs or push strollers along the hills, and the elderly can enjoy the fresh air on a perfectly placed park bench. When people start to congregate in public spaces, the town will resoundingly flourish in response. Food trucks will line the streets, community events will take place on the lush lawns, and eventually people will travel from neighboring cities to be a part of the shared space. As a result, the town will begin to flourish and thrive in a harmonious and natural ascent.

Our initial plans for the revitalization of Finlay Park began in 2014 with a grand master plan with our partners at Stantec. The project was put on hiatus due to lack of funding, but received City Council approval to move forward in February 2022. The revitalization of the park will transform it into a multi-use community hub with a large event space, a modern playground area, public art and abundant green spaces. 

The first step when taking on a master plan at this caliber is a phase called “validation,” where we take the masterplan parks department and analyze it element by element. We always host community context meetings to create an open dialogue with the members of the area and learn exactly what it is they are asking (and often not asking) for. The validation phase helps us tighten up our master plan constructability analysis, and from there we can draft some handsome drawings that match the budget the city has provided. From there, we will continue to interact with the community and make sure they feel like vital members of the project and that we are elevating their voices along the way.

At the conclusion of the design validation phase, Heath presented the design to City Council, where after unanimous approval, the Mayor added “I want Finlay Park to be a safe destination for everyone to enjoy.”  The City has dedicated $21 million for the park’s revitalization.  The project is currently out to bid to contractors and construction is slated to begin this summer.

finlay park urban plan

finlay park
finlay park