Reconstructing a Crown Jewel

Finlay ParkColumbia, SC—USA

A renovation of this historic park provides a beautiful, dynamic and safe space for residents and guests to visit and enjoy, and brings vibrancy back to a downtown district.

Civitas has teamed up with Stantec to bring new life back to Columbia, South Carolina’s largest public park. The revitalization transforms Finlay Park into a multi-use community hub with a large event space, a modern playground area, public art and abundant green spaces.

In Implementation
City of Columbia
Urban Design, Landscape Architecture
Project type/category
Civic/Municipal, Parks & Recreation, Public Realm

The 18.5-acre park was once considered the crown jewel of Columbia’s parks system and included vast green spaces, stages, and a cascading waterfall fed by a trademark spiral fountain. The park, which opened in its current form in the 1970s, had been a centerpiece for city recreation, events, and family gatherings. In more recent years, Finlay Park had declined due to a general lack of accessibility and poor maintenance that had resulted in structural failures, overgrown roots, and non-compliance with building codes.

The new design respects the original goals and objectives of revered southern landscape architect Robert Marvin and will improve circulation, engage users through diverse, interconnected spaces and increase accessibility, safety, and visibility.

Community engagement is a central component to all of Civitas’ work, and especially public realm projects like Finlay Park. In Columbia, where residents had longed for some investment in their civic amenities for years, the resounding response to design ideas shared in early public meetings was positive and enthusiastic. “It will be so nice to have a new and improved Finlay Park to take my family,” was a common sentiment heard from the community.

Initial plans for the revitalization of Finlay Park began in 2014 with a master plan developed with Stantec. The project was put on hiatus due to lack of funding but received City Council approval to move forward in February 2022. Groundbreaking took place in September 2023, and construction—estimated to cost $24 million—is expected to be complete in 2025. 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.

Project Plans:

  • Repairing the iconic spiral fountain, adding new falls cascading into a newly renovated central pond which will then flow into an amenity stream.
  • Constructing of new multi-use structures for events and park activation, including a new band stage.
  • Enhancing lawn areas for events.
  • Adding new amenities such as strolling gardens, multiple walkways, an overlook plaza, restrooms, shade shelter, spray play, a destination playground and public art.
  • Increasing safety and visibility with more open sightlines.
  • Improving accessibility, parking modifications and more.