mr. chips

Game Changer!

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I'm gonna have to agree with specs. I live in Greenville and have to go to Columbia from time to time to take care of business. I have friends and acqaintances from down that way that do kind of put other places down in the state. Must be a inferiority complex. Don't get me wrong. Columbia's a nice place and all, It's just not that impressive to me. And downtown Columbia is a classic downtown.

 

CorigiMatt your right to. Like here in Greenville. There are many surface lots that have owners who just want to stay in conversation. But that is slowly but surely changing. Developement is connecting parts of downtown Greenville that hadn't been connected before. We have developers like Mr. Hughes and others who making those changes happen. And you all are lucky to folk like him even eyeing your city. Things will happen. It'll just take time.   

The very concept of people from Columbia putting other cities down is foreign to me.  People who like Columbia spend a lot of time on these boards defending the city against people from other cities.  In my experience, posters and other people from Greenville on average are the worst offenders at putting Columbia down, whether online or in person.  To me what's impressive about Columbia is the grid it must fill out to have the kind of connectivity it seeks.  When that is done I feel it will be envied by many.  In the meantime there are several districts that in and of themselves offer a lot.

Edited by CorgiMatt

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The surface lot issue plagues Charlotte as well. Uptown has a slightly better sense of connectivity thanks to Bank of America and Wachovia building entire campuses next to each other, but First Ward is empty at night because Daniel Levine refuses to develop his parcels. As nice as it would be to convert these lots, owners will only sell them when developable land is scarce and there is sufficient demand.

 

Law firms and banks almost always locate in downtown areas and this seems to hold true in Columbia. If enough commercial office space is taken off the market for residential conversions and there is enough pent-up demand (perhaps from in-state firm consolidation), it's possible that Columbia could gain another mid-rise tower. The way the commercial market is at the moment, any developer seeking to build a high rise would need an anchor tenant for probably 30-50% of available space. The state does not seem to prioritize development in downtown, so Columbia itself would have to play a role in drawing a firm or company big enough to anchor a building. I don't see this happening in the immediate future, more in the 10-15 year horizon. When this happens, it should take one of the remaining high profile surface lots, maybe the one next to the Richland County Judicial Center (along with the center itself) right above Finlay Park or the one across from the Library on Assembly.

Edited by carolinagarnet

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From City Hall tonight:

"The City of Columbia in partnership with Palmetto Health, Abacus Planning, CMCOG, The COMET, and University of South Carolina will announce plans to move forward with the City’s Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan for the entire City.

Join Mayor Steve Benjamin, and City Officials at City Hall (Front steps on Main Street) Tuesday, May 20th at 10 a.m."

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I'll decline to disclose any personal details, but suffice it to say that I live off Main Street, and lived several places across the state before landing here. In my estimation the biggest blight for downtown is vacancy. Without doing any real tallying, I can think of several noticeably vacant store fronts on Main and Gervais streets, in what is supposed to be the most thriving area of the city: the blue building next to Drake's, the corner at taylor and main, the corner on main and blanding, the former White Mule, the Barringer Building's first floor, etc.... The side streets have the same problem. Further, even if there isn't vacancy there's a serious lack of pedestrian oriented-use, to which I'll point to the office buildings at the corner of washington and main, and others. Then there's the surface parking lots, like the one adjoining the wells fargo building, the ones by the Cornell Arms and the State house, the ones that cover the entire back of the block between main, sumter, blanding and laurel, behind Mellow on lady street, either side of pendleton at assembly, not to mention the two biggest eyesores in the city at the intersection of gervais and assembly. the funny thing is that these are all private lots, and the same cast of characters that complain about the lack of parking (as though living in a scooby-doo ghost-town is much better) can't cogently say that using those lots will make parking worse. So from a pedestrian oriented view, all this adds up to a space where there's wide swaths of nothing happening, which does nothing to tie together the parts of the city that need tying together. 

 

Before I lived here I would always hear people from Columbia poo-poo more rural parts of the state, disapproving of the small-town vacuums in the counties. "It's not like being in Columbia, where you're near everything" I always heard. Imagine my surprise when I moved here—to the heart of downtown no less— only to find out that the big city I heard so much about was actually empty. 

 

Certainly what you speak of is an issue, but I don't really think it's any, or much, worse than in many other cities Columbia's size. For instance, downtown Chattanooga (which Columbia could learn from in some areas) is lauded as a model of downtown redevelopment, but that's mostly relegated to the riverfront; its CBD struggles with these same issues. I think the momentum along Main and Gervais is getting rid of a lot of those vacant storefronts. As far as the surface lots though, that seems to be a larger challenge for a few key parcels. I know interest has to be strong for the lots at Assembly and Gervais and some offers must have been made. The only reason they've not been developed yet, I think, is because the owners are holding out for a huge, nonrealistic payday. 

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It would be interesting to talk to all or most of the owners of surface parking to ask how many times they've been approached by developers wanting to buy...

 

...and what their reason/s for not selling are.  I wouldn't be surprised if one reason is the way a lot like that generates income vs. perhaps the capital gains tax hit they'd take if they sold it.  Maybe they're planning to live on the income generated until a certain point in their "life plan," then sell.

 

I'm no tax attorney... others here could probably come up with other valid financial reasons someone wouldn't sell.

 

spes, CorgiMatt, and others... it's obvious that a lot of one's attitude about downtown is whether you're a glass half full or glass half empty type of person... I'm more of a half full type dude.  I tend to look at all of life's positives and try to work toward changing the negatives as best as I can.  I tend to think that if you let yourself focus too much on all the negatives, it paralyzes you... and can turn you into and old grump.

Edited by Trumble

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I agree with that last paragraph, Trumble.  When I see something I want changed, I email the mayor and my city council reps or the planning department, forestry department, etc.  I even talked with the property owner's nephew, as my partner identifies him, about the parcels at Assembly and Gervais.  It is a money thing.  They get a lot of revenue from parking, both day and night.  

 

The oak trees that used to adorn the corner near Saki Tumi died quick deaths.  I wondered what was up with that, especially since it happened not long after I talked with the nephew and in our conversation asked him to plant trees on the corner near Cola's.  The juniper under the one closest to the corner was suddenly brown as though it had been doused.  The oak never put on leaves that year and was soon cut down.  

 

Someone has since planted two small palmettos and the same type of tree as the ones along Gervais street in the oak's place, but those three oaks were special. You can still see them on Googlemaps' Streetview.  

Edited by CorgiMatt

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From City Hall tonight:

"The City of Columbia in partnership with Palmetto Health, Abacus Planning, CMCOG, The COMET, and University of South Carolina will announce plans to move forward with the City’s Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan for the entire City.

Join Mayor Steve Benjamin, and City Officials at City Hall (Front steps on Main Street) Tuesday, May 20th at 10 a.m."

 

I attended this news conference.  Columbia is going for the gold in bicycle friendliness.  Pedestrian connectivity and the bus system will be tied in to the masterplan to make the city "multi-nodal" and easy to navigate by foot, bike and bus.

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I attended this news conference.  Columbia is going for the gold in bicycle friendliness.  Pedestrian connectivity and the bus system will be tied in to the masterplan to make the city "multi-nodal" and easy to navigate by foot, bike and bus.

Can you give us any specifics? Does Columbia have a bicycle coordinator like many cities? Do you know who the staff person is in charge of this?

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I sent them a email asking about Making Light Rail Transit in Columbia that Has greenways along side the Rails. it will encourage people to commute public transit more and it will provide More Rapid Transit for the city. It would be great to have a Greenway along side the rail that connects to the Riverfront walkways. This will create jobs and businesses along side in the areas nearest to the Rail Stations. I've see this happen many time in other cities and Definally in Charlotte Recently.

Edited by growingup15

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The mayor said at the news conference yesterday that he gets more emails about connecting Columbia's districts than about any other issue.  Everyone's in, and not just the mayor and council reps, but the city , the county, several corporations and several organizations.  BTW, even surface parking lots can look decent or at least be all but unnoticeable if they're defined with trees, shrubs, flowers and other features that create corridors to draw pedestrians past them.  

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These are the things I like to see. And by creating more modes of transit, it will actually make people want to live closer to them. Making an area more urban. Charlotte and a few other cities, regionally, are doing a good job of that. Congrats to Columbia for starting the conversation.

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These are the things I like to see. And by creating more modes of transit, it will actually make people want to live closer to them. Making an area more urban. Charlotte and a few other cities, regionally, are doing a good job of that. Congrats to Columbia for starting the conversation.

Yeah I've seen so much success with that Rail Transit or BRT or Commuter Rails. Communities grow fast around them and People ride them more and even take the little pathways next to it. Stores open near them. More shopping will come from this also

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 BTW, even surface parking lots can look decent or at least be all but unnoticeable if they're defined with trees, shrubs, flowers and other features that create corridors to draw pedestrians past them.  

That is true, but not really the best solution. I wonder if the city is exploring all the possibilities of putting pressure on the lot owners to help improve our city by building there or selling the lots to developers. At least appeal to their civic duty and "pride of place". Especially the parcels across from the Statehouse - that alone could be a psychological "Game Changer" for the city if something nice could occupy those parcels on Assembly street. 

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That is true, but not really the best solution. I wonder if the city is exploring all the possibilities of putting pressure on the lot owners to help improve our city by building there or selling the lots to developers. At least appeal to their civic duty and "pride of place". Especially the parcels across from the Statehouse - that alone could be a psychological "Game Changer" for the city if something nice could occupy those parcels on Assembly street. 

 

The civic duty and pride of place thing is a pipe dream for some. Like someone referred to earlier. The lots won't get developed until the time is right. Here in Greenville there were tons of lots that some people thought were never gonna be transformed. Then it seemed like they were disappearing over night.

 

There has to be a catalyst. Greenville had a few downtown and in a number of other places around the city. But the most recent is the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Which drew the attention of the public. Which then drew the attention of developers. Now there are two places, one was an empty lot and the other an under used piece of property, being developed. With others on the drawing board. Charlotte's Blue line is another example in which, when they built it, alot of people there said it won't draw enough development. Now the SouthEnd is one of the fastest growing areas of the city.

 

Putting all of these things in perspective. None of the examples happenned overnight. But they got started by someone or somebody's who were willing to step outside the box. That is not only what Columbia's got to do. But we all are going to have to do to enhance and fortify our communities.

Edited by MAJIKMAN

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It is happening in Columbia and has been happening, just not on those two parcels yet.

Maybe, but very slowly - and seemingly without much concerted direction. In other words, not a "game changer".  

 

One other observation - I am noticing that there are a few more people looking at this Board lately, and even commenting. But what is interesting is that many of them are not now living in Columbia. Just now I saw readers from Greenville, Spartanburg, Charlotte and Washington DC. Where are the local Columbia people who are the ones living here and directly affected by all this? Is that the reason that things are so slow-moving and passive here? Where are the local activists? Have people here given up on creating a better city environment? I hope not...

Edited by mr.chips

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More people than ever before are showing up at city council meetings and public input gatherings.  There is a a high degree of interest in the community.  Maybe most people don't think the people who get things done read these boards that much.  And I'm often tempted to stay away from these boards because I personally don't think they are the place to vent frustrations, and I often get ridiculed and called a sunshine pumper because I post mostly positive stuff instead of dwelling on negative stuff.  There's not a city in SC or anywhere else that I couldn't go to town hitting it with negative, biting comments that would be true, and there's not a city anywhere that I couldn't do a number on it with my camera if I wanted to make it look ugly.        

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Columbia Common is coming fast. No STOP button has been pushed in the Vista in response to the central business district's resurgence. Likewise, none will be pushed in the Vista or in the CBD in response to Columbia Common's development. 

Also, Five Points is renovating spaces for more stores, and there's very little empty space down there. Add Devine Street; it's developing beautifully as well with new stores. 

Columbia Common will only add to the overall momentum. Not all the people living in the 3,500 units there nor the people who drive in (or take the Comet) to patronize it are going to stay within its confines. Every corner of a very large downtown Columbia will benefit, and the walk/bike/Comet masterplan will tie everything together and move people freely among them.

Columbia Regional Business Report {sodEmoji.|} Columbia, SC

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In my opinion, Columbia Commons will be successful if it steals business from Sandhills, Columbiana Mall, and Northeast. While I think it can be viewed as a competitor to both Main Street and the Vista, it has the ability to draw big chain stores (e.g. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshall's) that neither neighborhood is structurally able to handle. Most people don't take issue with the development itself, rather they find the $200M in public funding disconcerting. I don't think it's possible for the city to recoup its $200M investment through the new property and sales tax generated within the Commons. If, however, the area around the neighborhood adds density and/or increases in value, Columbia would probably see a net positive gain over the next few decades. More generally, people may increasingly opt to live downtown if they do not have to drive all the way out to Irmo or Northeast every time they want to shop. This would be a huge win for downtown as a whole.

Edited by carolinagarnet

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Anytime there's a big, thriving downtown, merchants have to decide which street or which section they will locate in.  That's friendly competition and it creates critical mass across a wide area.  That is what downtown Columbia will become.  It is happening now.

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Even though the 850 new residents aren't living at The Hub yet, and even though the Keenan building's conversion to apartments is just getting started, there is already a "night and day" effect on Main Street in the evening.  Even on Wednesday night (two nights ago), it was active with groups of people and couples walking up and down the street.  We ate at a packed Cantina 76, and less than a block away Bourbon was just as packed.  On the 1600 block on Main, people sit outside for sidewalk dining now at the Good Life Cafe and Michael's Cafe.  Savalis is drawing in patrons and also has sidewalk dining, and Al Amir is sure to make it with their ambiance and great-tasting food.  Wine Down on Main, Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, the Hampton Vineyard, Drip, Villa Tronco's, the bars and restaurants in the Marriott and the Sheraton, the Columbia Museum of Art with its nighttime activities for young professionals, and the Nickelodeon are all making a big difference. People are coming down there just to be a part of the new energy before and after eating at the restaurants.  While Main Street has a way to go, reading this thread makes me think of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, like the comments are based on how the central business district was a couple of years ago, or even a year ago, or even a couple of months ago.  It's changing and changing fast. 

 

I can speak to this. The other night I decided to have dinner at the new Cantina 76 on the sidewalk. There were people all around, young runners, older folks walking dogs, business people looking for somewhere to eat. I remarked to the folks eating with me that it didn't seem like we were in Columbia at all--two years ago, Cantina 76 was a Chic-Fil-A that closed at 5:00PM because Downtown became a ghosttown with Walkers panhandling. 

 

We then walked to bourbon after dinner and had more drinks. I agree, the place is changing, and it's being felt.

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Hadn't seen anyone post this and thought this might be a good place for it.

 

The CVB newest Famously Hot video really shows off the city well, IMO. 

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