Sharon Towers expansion includes a public park for SouthPark residents.
by Sharon Smith
SouthPark is known for shops and restaurants, not for having a lot of green space. Acres of woods along Fairview Road are long gone. Lots with brick ranches and sprawling yards along Sharonview Road are now home to luxury townhomes. Small condo communities have been torn down to make way for large mixed-use projects. Besides Symphony Park behind SouthPark Mall, it’s hard to find an inviting patch of green to stroll or a shaded bench to park yourself while sipping a cup of coffee.
In a few months, that will change. As part of a major campus revitalization and expansion at Sharon Towers, the continuing-care community is dedicating a half-acre of green space for use as a public park at the corner of Hazelton Drive and Sharon Road. While the total construction project will take years to complete, the park component — which includes public art, benches and a fountain — is expected to be finished in September, upon final city approval.
“Given the ongoing development around us, it is exciting to see some new green space added in SouthPark. It just doesn’t happen very often,” says Drew Thrasher, president of the Laurelwood Neighborhood Association. Thrasher has lived a stone’s throw from Sharon Towers on Hazelton Drive for nearly 20 years, with a front-row seat to SouthPark’s increasing lean toward a more urban commercial core.
“It’s a little piece of nature in an urban setting,” says Angela Rigsbee, CEO and president of Sharon Towers. You can hear the excitement in Rigsbee’s voice as she talks about the park’s potential to attract residents and connect them to the neighborhood. “We’re building it and looking at the future consumer,” she says about the community’s desire to improve the aging experience with a more engaging, open campus that promotes an active, healthy lifestyle.
“The fact that most of this expansion is visible from Sharon Road is intentional,” Rigsbee says. “We want to weave Sharon Towers into the fabric of the greater neighborhood.” Eventually, the park will connect to public retail space (like an ice cream shop) on the Sharon Towers campus, steps away from The Loop, a planned 3-mile urban trail scheduled to be built in phases.
While few neighbors welcome the sights and sounds of large-scale construction projects, Thrasher focuses on the park’s long-term payoff as a buffer from the hustle and bustle of Sharon Road. He says Sharon Towers was responsive to feedback from his neighborhood, Fairmeadows and SPAN (SouthPark Association of Neighborhoods) in the park’s design and in moving the park project up on the construction timeline.
“When I think about this park, along with the development of The Loop around SouthPark, the city’s construction of the new Backlot Trail and all the greenway extensions (with their neighborhood connections) coming along Little Sugar Creek, Briar Creek and Little Hope Creek, there will be a lot more outdoor opportunities in SouthPark at this time next year,” Thrasher says. SP
Featured Image: Rendering provided by Belgrave Associates. Early artist’s vision — the final plan may vary.