This past Saturday, I spent my day at the annual Greenville City Council planning session. This is the time every year when the council gathers with staff to discuss their priorities for the year.

This year something a little strange happened. The City Council chose, as their number one priority, something that had never been discussed in a council meeting before.

Council’s number one priority for the year is looking into building a STEAM (STEM + Art) Center on the Greenville Town Common. They were presented the idea for the first time on Saturday and it seemed as if there was substantial support for it on the council.

The building would be owned by a non-profit that does not yet exist. They would hold trainings and workshops similar to what GO Science already does and they would also have a performing arts center. The presenter pitched it as a beautiful and iconic space with a big light-up pirate ship on the outside.

As a bit of background, the city does have a Town Common Master Plan that has been thoroughly vetted by and in the public through various meetings and forums. This project is not part of our Master Plan and would be a large deviation from it.

I have some issues with this project. First off, this is an indoor facility. People would be going there to participate in a lesson or view a performance. They won’t be looking at or enjoying the park. This is a building that could go anywhere. It wouldn’t be improved by being on the Town Common and the Town Common wouldn’t be improved by having it. I think it sounds like a good project but there isn’t a compelling case for putting it on a park. Why not build it right across 1st street?

But what bothers me the most is that this project, seemingly, would give away part of our Town Common. This is our central park and once we give it away we’re never getting it back. It should be a place for the public. Nothing should be built on the Town Common that can’t later be changed by the voters.

If we were to go ahead with this project we would lose a huge amount of open green space. But if we keep Town Common a park, we’ll appreciate having our green space more and more as downtown grows and develops.