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krazeeboi

Is Columbia TRULY urbanizing?

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This may seem to some a stupid question to ask, given the "renaissance," as Mayor Bob puts it, that the city is experiencing. However, new downtown construction isn't synonymous with true urbanization. There are many aspects to urbanization, including walkability, emphasis on public and open spaces, transit, aesthetic appeal, housing variety, etc., so I think we should tackle the question from that viewpoint. This could also be looked at from the perspective of urban (including in-town neighborhoods) development vs. suburban development, i.e., is the city urbanizing more, about the same, or less, than it is suburbanizing?

Fire away.

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more of a comment than an answer but i just wanted to point out that those r all excellent points i hadn't considered!!

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I think it is both urbanizing and suburbanizing. As to which is greater...I'd guess suburban.

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This is a good question, and not a very easy answer. I feel in several aspects, that Columbia is making a great effort at urbanization. Innovista is probally the best example. I'm not sure if you checked out the website in a while, but it's got some good info and really got me excited (http://innovista.sc.edu). If it pans out to half of what is descriped breifly on it's site, I think that portion of DT Columbia will have a very urban feel.

Other examples of DT Urbanization include: all the Capital Place developments, the Vista improvements, and while it doesn't have great street level interaction, buildings like First Citizen will ultimately make DT Columbia more dense (I know we'd all like a taller building, but I'd take 3 new ones that size opposed to one 3 times it's size).

On the opposite side, projects like the Assembly CVS (freestanding) are very suburban. One project that's always bothered me is the New Federal Court House. While it's a beautiful buiding inside and out, I just don't think it's very urban and it could have had a much greater impact on DT.

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Downtown is urbanizing more. But outsidee of downtown it's still suburbanizing at a faster rate it seems like

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Gamecock Engineer, you hit on some of what I was getting at, particularly the suburban examples present downtown. While I will say that the design of the CVS on Assembly appears to be one-half step above the company's usual suburban free-standing box model, it still falls way short of being urban. In this same vein are Whaley Row and the Courtyard at Arsenal Hill. The first looks like it belongs out in NE Richland, while the Courtyard is nothing more than a gussied-up cul-de-sac, smack dab in the middle of the city's oldest neighborhood at that; the developers actually describe it as an "urban infill subdivision" :blink: . I'm really starting to think that traditional neighborhood development is becoming a lost art. Hopefully, will prove that somebody still knows how to design neighborhoods and provide truly urban infill in a more traditional (pre-WWII) manner.

Another important aspect of urbanity I failed to explicitly mention is architecture. This is where my (admittedly premature) concerns about the Bull Street campus come into play. From the one New Urbanist project I'm familiar with on a firsthand basis (Baxter Village off I-77, Fort Mill) and from seeing photos of others, I'm afraid that possibly what appears to me to be a faux-historical architectural style just may "clash," for lack of a better term, with the genuine architecture of the homes in surrounding neighborhoods which truly reflect their eras of construction (Cottontown, the historic Hampton district). I would have rather seen the campus take on more of a TND development style, but because I haven't seen an example of infill New Urbanism, I'm willing to give it a chance to see what it will look like and how it will become integrated with the rest of downtown.

Another concern (again, premature) is actually related to Innovista. I know that several architects are on board with this project, so I'm hoping that all of the buildings won't look exactly alike. I'm definitely excited about it from an economic standpoint, but not so much from an architectural standpoint--at least from what I see with the Horizon block. These research buildings will take up a good bit of land downtown, and I would not want to see about 20 or so research buildings looking exactly alike. I would also like to know exactly how the housing and retail components of the campus will be developed--will they include a mix of housing types (some single family, townhomes/rowhouses, condos) by several different developers? Also, I'm not even holding my breath as far as affordable housing in connection with Innovista is concerned, but it would be nice to receive a pleasant surprise in this regard. So I guess I'll have to wait and see if my concerns will indeed be valid as more plans for Innovista are revealed.

I will say that one thing I like about downtown Columbia is its functionality. I was talking to someone I met who is staying in uptown Charlotte for a convention who was lamenting the fact that in the wee hours of the morning, there were no eateries close by that were open. In contrast, there are two McDonalds (I think they're 24 hours--just about all of them now are) and the 24-hour IHOP in downtown Columbia. A lot of downtown's functionality also has to do with the fact that there's a large university located downtown, which is definitely a plus.

All in all, I think I would definitely say that Columbia is urbanizing--not maximally, but urbanizing nonetheless. In terms of population growth, the suburbs are definitely winning, but that's pretty much the case anywhere. But in terms of development, I think the urban core takes the cake here. The vast majority of the city's major projects, from economic to residential, are occurring in the heart of downtown. There is a strong emphasis on neighborhood revitalization/improvement. Options for newly constructed affordable housing are coming online (the Battery at Arsenal Hill, Vsion) or have recently been constructed (the townhomes in Arsenal Hill). Even from an environmental sustainability perspective, the city is doing better than many its size with the proposed fuel cell district downtown and the green aspects of the Innovista buildings (which need to be extended to most of the city's new construction, IMO).

That's all for now. :)

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While the CVS at first glance may appear suburban, it actually is as urban as the printing plant Publix, which at first glace appears very urban. By this I mean that the CVS looks a lot like any suburban CVS, but you can enter the front door without ever walking across asphalt. The sidewalk leads you up steps to a cement walkway that runs parallel to the Assembly Street sidewalk, so that you've got: building-interior sidewalk-public sidewalk-street, with virtually no setback. The building pretty much hugs the corner. With Publix, while the pedestrian can also leave the public sidewalk on Gervais and never walk across asphalt to get in the store, the entrance is adjacent to the interior parking lot, which really isn't very interior if you give Wayne Street as much weight as Gervais or Lady in relation to the prominence of the parking lot.

In general, nearly everything that has been or will be built in the huge area bounded by Blossom, Elmwood, Pickens and the Congaree River, is or will be built to the sidewalk or very close with maybe a narrow green band. There may continue to be exceptions to this rule, such as institutional buildings, which in my opinion garner a certain amount of respect by being set back for a more majestic view. The new federal courthouse is an example of that. In other words, to me sometimes an entrance requires a grander approach, and a green lawn in front adds to the governmental effect.

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I'm really starting to think that traditional neighborhood development is becoming a lost art. Hopefully, the Battery at Arsenal Hill will prove that somebody still knows how to design neighborhoods and provide truly urban infill in a more traditional (pre-WWII) manner.

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While the CVS at first glance may appear suburban, it actually is as urban as the printing plant Publix, which at first glace appears very urban. By this I mean that the CVS looks a lot like any suburban CVS, but you can enter the front door without ever walking across asphalt. The sidewalk leads you up steps to a cement walkway that runs parallel to the Assembly Street sidewalk, so that you've got: building-interior sidewalk-public sidewalk-street, with virtually no setback. The building pretty much hugs the corner. With Publix, while the pedestrian can also leave the public sidewalk on Gervais and never walk across asphalt to get in the store, the entrance is adjacent to the interior parking lot, which really isn't very interior if you give Wayne Street as much weight as Gervais or Lady in relation to the prominence of the parking lot.

In general, nearly everything that has been or will be built in the huge area bounded by Blossom, Elmwood, Pickens and the Congaree River, is or will be built to the sidewalk or very close with maybe a narrow green band. There may continue to be exceptions to this rule, such as institutional buildings, which in my opinion garner a certain amount of respect by being set back for a more majestic view. The new federal courthouse is an example of that. In other words, to me sometimes an entrance requires a grander approach, and a green lawn in front adds to the governmental effect.

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In terms of the City, yes... the metro? No.

Downtown is recovering from its attempts to retrofit suburbia into the existing urban fabric.

Ultimately, the things tha are needed for true urbanity are not yet present allover downtown, but they are slowly being built and restored as people are gaining more interest in their downtown. The CVS and even Publix to an exent are examples of small steps towards urbanity. Its true that they are still catering to cars, but you have to recognize that the population downtown is still relatively small, and that there are more people driving into downtown than there are people who live there.

To be treuly urban, Columbia must have more permanant residents downtown, and it must be posisble for them to live there and not need to drive to suburbia to get the essentials of life. Density is a key factor. More housing is coming to downtown all the time, so that will take care of itself. I am interested to see how urban districts evolve downtown. Everything can't be focued on the Vitsa in teh long run. Sooner or later something else will have to emerge. I'm not sure waht or where, but downtown is too large for just two urban districts. But like I said, this will come later on as more people move into downtown.

Does anyone have any idea how many residential units are available in downtown?

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Actually, if y'all will indulge me for some more on CVS, they really designed the whole thing with a pedestrians first approach. I rode by this morning and analyzed it. The parking lot entrance/exit is narrow. The pedestrian has a short walk across the entrance (while remaining on the public sidewalk), and can then walk up a walkway from the sidewalk that runs along Assembly, all the way to the entrance of the store. From the corner of Assembly and College they can walk up steps and follow the same walkway all the way to the door from the other direction. Finally, at the back corner of the store they can leave the sidewalk along College Street and use a connected walkway along the building that leads them to the aforementioned walkway. No need to ever walk on asphalt from any direction, except for when you cross the street on the way to CVS. Now that's pedestrian friendly, which is a very important element in urbanism.

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And even beyond that (first, I hate the fact that they built it there but I'm trying to look on the bright side of things) the building is very well lit. It is almost an attractive building when you first see it.

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Is the building built at grade? I didn't think so because of the steps leading from the sidewalk. I also thought I remembered seeing a narrow strip of grass separating one of those secondary sidewalks from the primary sidewalk. That's why I said the building wasn't 100% urban.

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Thats a good and valid point. That parking lot can be filled in later. They could have done a better job though. The College St side of the building could have been done in a better way.

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