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nowyano

CSU in Downtown

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I hadn't been to Columbus since I lived there in 2003. The downtown area around Front Street and Broadway has become very impressive. I have 2 questions: (1) A lot of the improvements/revitalizations seemed to be revolveed around CSU's downtown arts programs, is this true? and (2) Does CSU have the potential (population, reputation, alumni, money, and growth) to become what SCAD is to Savannah?

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I hadn't been to Columbus since I lived there in 2003. The downtown area around Front Street and Broadway has become very impressive. I have 2 questions: (1) A lot of the improvements/revitalizations seemed to be revolveed around CSU's downtown arts programs, is this true? and (2) Does CSU have the potential (population, reputation, alumni, money, and growth) to become what SCAD is to Savannah?

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I know that Columbus High is the area magnet school, so my guess is that most students there could get into just about any school any way. Do you know what is going on at the theater next to the Bradley? I think it's called the Ralliston. I walked by it and there is definitley some renovation happening there.

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Does anyone know what is happening to the Kress building? I think it's a historic site, but the interior is gone leaving only the front exterior. I will post pictures later.

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Does anyone know what is happening to the Kress building? I think it's a historic site, but the interior is gone leaving only the front exterior. I will post pictures later.

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(1) If it wasn't for Columbus State University... Downtown Columbus would still remain the way it was circa 1994, simply because there isn't a real interest in real estate in that particular part of town. What CSU did, was initiate an interest by moving and expanding the Arts Departments (visual, music, theater), creating a "world-class" entertainment venue - (The RiverCentre for the Performing Arts) and locating all of its art and theatre major students down there. So now with the presence of college students... spurred some interest in downtown redevelopment. A few private/public redevelopments followed thereafter - Eagle & Phenix Mills, Streetscapes, and a few new restaurants and cafes.

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I would submit for discussion that the revitalization started before CSU. That the revitalization started with the construction of the RiverWalk and South Commons. Then cam TSYS and a few of the other businesses that began opening up, The Loft, Cannon, etc. that started the 'entertainment district' there on Broadway, the Flowers Building lofts, etc. What CSU has added is population. While it's still not enough to draw economic development of a major retail sort, it's a very good beginning. There is a balance that has to occur with CSU and similar facilities. These entities pay no property tax. So, to be able to maintain the downtown area, there has to be a strong effort to attract private development to sustain the quality in the district.

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I did a similar write up about the construction in Montgomery in the Montgomery Forum, and will now do the same for Columbus. This is in addition CSU, as in my mind much of the construction seems to be due to their presence.

Foremost, I think its funny that people in Columbus seem to have a complex in thinking that Montgomery is better. Columbus has everything Montgomery has except national name recognition, a zoo, and the state capital. The strip malls that lie on the eastern parts of Montgomery are in Columbus, just on the north part of Veterans. The malls in Montgomery are worse than Peachtree (which says something). And lastly the construction and renovation of Columbus' Uptown is far ahead of the revitalization of Montgomery's downtown.

This past weekend I was in Columbus taking some classes at Troy-Phenix City and when the class let out approximately five hours before I thought it would I decided to hop around Uptown Columbus on a Sunday.

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The first stop was the end of Broadway, near the South Commons’ entrance to the Riverwalk. I took this photo of the baseball stadium. Nearby is the Columbus Civic Center, the Olymbic Softball Field, the Naval Museum, and a lot of other attractions up the Riverwalk.

The Civic Center has an upcoming concert with Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker, which are two very huge acts for a city of Columbus’ size. However, and I have always found this funny, not even 100 feet from the Civic Center parking are the Booker T Washington Apartments (aka the Projects). I wonder how long these are going to stay there before the city decides to destroy them.

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From there I headed on down Broadway through the Historic District. When I lived in Columbus (circa 2003) I remember they were fixing up the cobblestone along the road. They have done a great job here. There are fountains in the middle of every block, so now I understand why Columbus is nicknamed Fountain City.

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These two stuck out to me as cool. There were several historic renovations in the district, including what appeared to be a new Bed and Breakfast (not sure that Columbus has the draw for that yet, but it is good initiative, which hopefully does not fail before the idea catches on).

As the Historic District ends, and the cobblestone fades away to pavement I reach the true downtown. Apparently Columbus has rebranded the area Uptown (or UPtown as all the promotional material spells it). The first show, which I found spectacular is the River Center, with the Govement building rising behind it, and a fountain (which they were just installing when I left Columbus) in front of it.

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This is when the trip became cool. During my brief time living in Columbus people did not go to Uptown. The area was falling apart, other than the Cannon Grille and the Loft there was nothing there. The Bradley Theater had fallen apart, and I did not know the Rialto even existed. Now the area has several restaurants.

I want to add to these pictures were takien on a Sunday, so that while Broadway, Front, 1st, and 2nd were not bustling with business there were definitely people out and about. A lot of them appeared to be CSU students, or families stoping to eat after church. The Saturday and Friday before the area was much busier.

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This was the only hotel I saw in Uptown. It was a Marriot, and next time I go to Columbus I will probably try to stay there.

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The Coca Cola Space Science Museum on Front Ave. This was closed on Sundays.

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Corn Center for the Visual Arts.

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Eagle and Phenix Mills Condos.

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Yes this is a parking garage. I just love it when downtown parking garages that make the fronting more attractive, almost making them look like an office building. It’s a good way to get rid of otherwise ugly structures.

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Some interesting driftwood art in front of the Ledger-Enquirer building. I loved all the art up and down Broadway. Not sure if this is from CSU or something else, there was a lot of new art. Also the Ledger-Enquirer building seems to have been split. The building directly behind this piece of art is for lease as condos or commercial space. I guess that’s something positive coming out of the death of newspapers.

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At the end of Broadway, near the Synovus building there was a lot of work. The only thing I recognized from 2002, was the Country Barbeque, though I don’t remember the neon reading “On Broadway” before.

The building with the black awnings has a gym (is this the new YMCA) and some commercial spaces for rent.

I also liked the Uptown signs that I saw every few blocks on Front, Broadway, and 1st.

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The Bradley and the Rialto, two newly renovated theaters. I know the Bradley had some B-list rappers there when I was living in Columbus (Eightball & MJG, just prior to signing with Bad Boy records). I also found this website http://www.columbusgeorgiaonline.com/reminisce_rialto_chpt1.htm about the current renovations of the Rialto.

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Now here was one of the oddest things I saw. The Kress Building, a National Historic Site is absolutely gutted. The front is there in near perfect condition. Does anyone know the plan for this?

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Maybe something like this? It looks as though these three or so restaurants are trying to make this section something a kin to City Market in Savannah. Lots of restaurants and an eating area in the middle for all of them.

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I love this style, Rankin Center for the Arts (more CSU I believe).

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A building being renovated for commercial or condos.

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This is the Market. When I was in Columbus it was located on Talbotton Road, and was only a fish market. Now it is a restaurant with a great location.

This made me think about some other great minority owned restaurants, especially down on South Lumpkin Road, that should take the opportunity to move to one of the locations downtown (El Boriquen comes to mind, as does the Speakeasy on Macon Rd).

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This building at 1st and 12th, is undergowing huge new renovations and restoration. I saw what it was but I forgot. I believe it is mixed use with stores on the first floor and condos/apartment on the upper three.

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I include this photo of the Sun Trust building soley because I forgot it was there.

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This is a building that I have a lot of memories about. It used to be a luxury hotel, it is the third tallest building in Columbus (behind the Aflac building, and the Government building). It is currently being contracted out through Public Housing for residence with mental health issues. I have mixed feelings on it. I bet within 10 years, under pressure from UPtown Inc, it will lose the contract and someone will come in and buy it. The residence will then be evicted. This of cource is all hypothetical. I just can’t see how this building, which inside was once glorious and is now in disarray will be able to keep functioning if Columbus’ Uptown continues its revitalization.

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Goverment Building.

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Springer Opera House, the State Theater of Georgia. I know this has been here, but I never really paid attention to it. It looks as though it is getting a few big time productions. Currently it is playing Oklaholma.

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This is across from the Holy Family Church, I have no idea what it is, but I thought it was beautiful.

A few things I noticed:

1. There is no library downtown, but there are plenty of old warehouses to put one. With all the money Columbus put out into the Macon Road location I would imagine the public library may want to look into building one here.

2. This is the same thing as I felt with the Ralston Towers, there was a lot of buzz about Ashley Station, but it is directly across the street from the projects. Ashley Station, and another nice new condo development, sit right on the cusp of two public housing developments. I’m not complaining about crime, as I grew up in Bromley-Heath Projects in Boston, but who would pay for beautiful housing across from ugly projects.

3. I am confused as to why UPtown Inc wants no chains downtown. I could see someting like H&M or the Gap fitting into what they are doing trying to do with Uptown. Plus it would get some people who otherwise wouldn’t go downtown to check it out.

And I’m wondering with chains if they are refering to things such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Food, Fresh Market. Either one of those chains could be succesful there. My in laws would make the drive up (2 hours) from rural Alabama to go to Trader Joe’s in Columbus.

4. Lots of coffee shops, lots of new or building entertainment venues and museums, lots of restaurants (new, old, and otherwise), but I saw only one hotel downtown.

It will be interesting to see if the revitalizatoin reaches across Veterans and up to the old mills and factories there.

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1. There is no library downtown, but there are plenty of old warehouses to put one. With all the money Columbus put out into the Macon Road location I would imagine the public library may want to look into building one here.

2. This is the same thing as I felt with the Ralston Towers, there was a lot of buzz about Ashley Station, but it is directly across the street from the projects. Ashley Station, and another nice new condo development, sit right on the cusp of two public housing developments. I’m not complaining about crime, as I grew up in Bromley-Heath Projects in Boston, but who would pay for beautiful housing across from ugly projects.

3. I am confused as to why UPtown Inc wants no chains downtown. I could see someting like H&M or the Gap fitting into what they are doing trying to do with Uptown. Plus it would get some people who otherwise wouldn’t go downtown to check it out.

And I’m wondering with chains if they are refering to things such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Food, Fresh Market. Either one of those chains could be succesful there. My in laws would make the drive up (2 hours) from rural Alabama to go to Trader Joe’s in Columbus.

4. Lots of coffee shops, lots of new or building entertainment venues and museums, lots of restaurants (new, old, and otherwise), but I saw only one hotel downtown.

It will be interesting to see if the revitalizatoin reaches across Veterans and up to the old mills and factories there.

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's.

2. This is the same thing as I felt with the Ralston Towers, there was a lot of buzz about Ashley Station, but it is directly across the street from the projects. Ashley Station, and another nice new condo development, sit right on the cusp of two public housing developments. I’m not complaining about crime, as I grew up in Bromley-Heath Projects in Boston, but who would pay for beautiful housing across from ugly projects.

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I think that I may have been confused by what exactly Ashley Station was. I was under the assumption that they were either a mixed income community, or condos. Guess I was wrong.

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Uptown either has no vision, or has been told by the Bradley Foundation to not let chains come downtown. They're afraid chains would crowd out the mom and pops. (no comment on the fact that there are hardly any mom and pops). When the exact opposite has been proven true time and again.

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I would submit for discussion that the revitalization started before CSU. That the revitalization started with the construction of the RiverWalk and South Commons. Then cam TSYS and a few of the other businesses that began opening up, The Loft, Cannon, etc. that started the 'entertainment district' there on Broadway, the Flowers Building lofts, etc. What CSU has added is population. While it's still not enough to draw economic development of a major retail sort, it's a very good beginning. There is a balance that has to occur with CSU and similar facilities. These entities pay no property tax. So, to be able to maintain the downtown area, there has to be a strong effort to attract private development to sustain the quality in the district.

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Uptown either has no vision, or has been told by the Bradley Foundation to not let chains come downtown. They're afraid chains would crowd out the mom and pops. (no comment on the fact that there are hardly any mom and pops). When the exact opposite has been proven true time and again.

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And that's the reason why no one does any kind of serious shopping downtown. There's absolutely nothing there. It would be nice to see Downtown attract places like a Whole Foods or Kroger, (the one thing that CSU uptown campus students complain about is the lack of a grocery store - you have to go all the way across the river into Phenix City for the nearest one), I mean simple stuff to just support people being there. A retro-fit mid 1800's industrial revolution looking facade on Kroger along 1st or Front Avenue would be beyond awesome. More cafes, brand-name shops that bring goods you can't find elsewhere in the city so that it does not infringe on the mom and pop stores nearby... (if anything it'll bring them more business - any shopper would be curious to know what lingers nearby). More apartments for college students, empty nesters, and/or condos for people who want the conveniences of semi-urban living.

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Believe that the retail mkt in DT will increase exponentially when (and IF) the mill dams are finally breached and whitewater becomes a reality. Should lead to new hotels, restaurants and specialty shops catering to kayakers and tourists. Also believe that CSU will continue to enliven the area, hopefully using some of the empty commercial buildings for classrooms and dorms. The old Raymond Rowe (Davison's) buliding on Broadway is a good example. Glad to see that the old Empire Building is undergoing renovation and will house apts and retail. Maybe the soon-to-be awarded contract to turn the old 14th St Bridge into a pedestrian mall (hopefully with cafes, etc) is a signal that the long-awaited whitewater feature will soon be in the offing. Last I heard there was some debate whether to spend 10M to create medium quality whitewater run or 15M to create a top-notch feature. Think it is time to stop debating and get on with it, as whitewater will -- in my opinion -- be the next big factor in driving DT improvement

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Believe that the retail mkt in DT will increase exponentially when (and IF) the mill dams are finally breached and whitewater becomes a reality. Should lead to new hotels, restaurants and specialty shops catering to kayakers and tourists. Also believe that CSU will continue to enliven the area, hopefully using some of the empty commercial buildings for classrooms and dorms. The old Raymond Rowe (Davison's) buliding on Broadway is a good example. Glad to see that the old Empire Building is undergoing renovation and will house apts and retail. Maybe the soon-to-be awarded contract to turn the old 14th St Bridge into a pedestrian mall (hopefully with cafes, etc) is a signal that the long-awaited whitewater feature will soon be in the offing. Last I heard there was some debate whether to spend 10M to create medium quality whitewater run or 15M to create a top-notch feature. Think it is time to stop debating and get on with it, as whitewater will -- in my opinion -- be the next big factor in driving DT improvement

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Agree that -- as a stand-alone -- whitewater not a game-changer. However am hopeful that will be the factor that finally creates a critical mass such that -- considering museums (Infantry, Civil War Naval, Art), Rivercenter, Riverwalk, CSU, Coca Cola Science Center, Historic Area, bars/cafees, Oxbow -- DT will become a weekend destination for Atlantans and others in surrounding area (B'ham, Montgomery, Macon, etc). That will encourage the type of high-rise hotels that I agree are needed. Also whitewater as visual (not just recreational) draw might be a factor in bringing more convention business into town, thus leading to more hotels. If the course is 2-3 miles (from Bibb to Dillingham) that opens up a lot of riverfront to hotel (not to mention residential) development. A highrise having views of the entire course from start to finish would be awesome -- especially with restaurant/bar at highest level. Btw, some of the older existing buildings along the proposed course would make great boutique hotels or B&B's, thereby preserving ambiance while putting the under-used parcels of property on the taxrolls.

In other words, if whiteater comes on line, advertising Columbus as weekend destination in outlying mkts (ala Chattannoga) could be a highly profitable idea and lead to full potential of DT. No guarantees but could be worth a shot. Frustrating that this project seems to be more hype than reality, considering the potential that it seems to have.

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One of the most important things Columbus could do for downtown and other redevelopment areas is to try again for Redevelopment Powers (aka TAD's). Troup County and all its cities will vote on referendum this November. (See LaGrange News article). If memory serves, this narrowly lost in Columbus.

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Believe that the retail mkt in DT will increase exponentially when (and IF) the mill dams are finally breached and whitewater becomes a reality. Should lead to new hotels, restaurants and specialty shops catering to kayakers and tourists. Also believe that CSU will continue to enliven the area, hopefully using some of the empty commercial buildings for classrooms and dorms. The old Raymond Rowe (Davison's) buliding on Broadway is a good example. Glad to see that the old Empire Building is undergoing renovation and will house apts and retail. Maybe the soon-to-be awarded contract to turn the old 14th St Bridge into a pedestrian mall (hopefully with cafes, etc) is a signal that the long-awaited whitewater feature will soon be in the offing. Last I heard there was some debate whether to spend 10M to create medium quality whitewater run or 15M to create a top-notch feature. Think it is time to stop debating and get on with it, as whitewater will -- in my opinion -- be the next big factor in driving DT improvement

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What ever happened to the White Water project? I thought that the deal was all but finished and they were supposed to breach the damn in 2007 or 08.

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