Chi2Midlands

Columbia Relocation

Recommended Posts

Hi to all at the Upstate/Midlands forum at urbanplanet.org!

I'm new to this forum but have been reading all the topics voraciously. Nice to see spirited commentary about Columbia and South Carolina!

Anyways, my wife and I are about to move to the Columbia area and would like to see what you folks have to say about what areas to live in. I'm originally from an older suburb near Chicago (probably roughly comparable to Forest Acres), and my wife grew up near Charlottesville, VA (her neighborhood was roughly comparable to older areas of Irmo/St. Andrews). We are currently in Northern Virginia near DC and are looking to move to a newer neighborhood with good public schools and an environment friendly for young families and couples. Moreover we are looking for a nice change from the rat race up here to a slower, calmer pace of life. We are both of Asian Indian descent and so we also wanted an area that was reasonably diverse (of course, we are not expecting Los Angeles, but we want a decent amount of acceptance of different backgrounds).

I've interviewed once in Columbia and got a good tour of the city and discussed surrounding areas a bit with future co-workers. Later my wife and I made our own road trip and went just about everywhere - downtown, Vista, Five Points, Shandon, Harbison/Columbiana, Lake Murray, Two Notch/Columbia Place, Lake Carolina, and the emerging Village at Sandhill. We really liked the city and area in general and can definitely see ourselves settling down there.

While I've done a lot of research and know about the good school areas (Lex/Rich 5, Lex 1, Richland 2), we really liked Lake Carolina and have heard good things about it. I've followed the discussion of "Irmo vs. Lexington", but I want you folks to extend that to Northeast Richland as well. I have a sense of the "personality" of each of these suburban areas, but I want to see what you folks have to say. For me, perhaps being a Yankee, I liked the "vibe" I felt in NE Richland. Irmo/Harbison/Lake Murray, despite seeming to have the most top-notch schools in the area if not the state, didn't appeal to me as much - it reminded me too much of Northern Virginia and areas like Schaumburg outside Chicago. Towards Lake Murray/Lexington, there didn't seem to be as many young families an children as NE Richland. Of course, I didn't like the ugly sprawl on Two Notch, and Columbia Place Mall didn't seem very safe (despite nice renovations).

Finally, what say you all on the schools? Lex/Rich 5 seem the best on paper (test scores, etc.), and Lex 1 seemed up there as well. But I like Richland 2's diversity, and while not quite as good on paper, it's still quite high. I also like their interesting magnet programs. They also seem to have a different type of commitment to their public schools - they don't seem to rely on "good demographics" to create "good schools" - they just create good schools. This is not a slap against the other schools, I'm just trying to find the best fit for my future children. I read some of the comments on greatschools.net to get some impressions. Except for some overcrowding at Ridge View High, Richland 2 parents and students seem to be very happy - I saw more consistently positive comments than the other two "elite" school districts.

Well, I've gone on long enough - I'll open the floor to Midlands experts/veterans.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


waccamatt    8

I would definitely recommend Richland County over Lexington County in terms of diversity and a more open minded populace. I'm not real big on suburban life anywhere, but I understand with children that it is a good option. There are some good inner city schools in the Shandon area in town and I honestly think you would be happier there han in the suburbs. You will find a much more diverse population in the city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
waccamatt    8

P.S. I graduated from Spring Valley, which is in Richland District 2. Everything I've heard about Ridge View is good. I looked at a house in Lake Carolina, but I decided to stay in-town. I really liked the development, but I didn't want a long drive to work or to the Vista or 5 Points. What part of town will you be working in?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Spartan    682

Welcome to the forum!

I have a cousin who attended Ridge View, and he thought it was alright. The overcrowded thing was the biggest problem but Richland 2 is building Blythewood HS to solve that. RV and Spring Valley are sister schools (I think that's how they phrase it).

Shandon attends AC Moore Elementary, Hand MS, and Dreher HS, which are good schools as I understand it. Shandon is a nice and historic neighborhood. I agree with waccamatt on this this area. The only caveat is that you don't have close access to the major shopping areas, but the area off of Garner's Ferry Rd is groing nicely. I prefer to go there than to Harbison. (I'm at USC)

I generally dislike Two Notch Road. That whole thing with everything on one side of the road bothers me, and I think it creates unnecessary congestion.

Like waccamatt said, if you could tell us what part of town you will be working in we could probably give you a better "analysis" :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses so far.

I will be working in NE Columbia - around the SC-277 / Fontaine / Farrow area. For that reason I also like NE Richland - it's a no-brainer that it's closer to there. If I were working around Harbison, I would definitely consider Irmo/Dutch Fork or Lexington more, but I wanted to know if Irmo/Lexington was better enough so that it was worth the extra commute time / congestion. My guess is that, no, it's probably not worth the extra distance. However, a few of my future co-workers do live in Irmo and Lexington, and they don't take more than 20-30 minutes to get to work (I believe that may be partly because they get to work by 7 or 7:30am).

Well, keep the answers coming - this is great!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
waccamatt    8

Thanks for the responses so far.

I will be working in NE Columbia - around the SC-277 / Fontaine / Farrow area.

Edited by waccamatt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
waccamatt    8

P.S. The thing you will like the best about Columbia is how much more house you will get for the money compared to Chicago or Metro DC.

Edited by waccamatt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

P.S. The thing you will like the best about Columbia is how much more house you will get for the money compared to Chicago or Metro DC.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Tell me about it - the housing market here is totally out of whack. My wife are I are lucky that we bought our townhouse four years ago. It's doubled in value since then.

Even the realtors up here are admitting that the market is pricing the first-time home buyer out of the market. I've heard of at least one case of a young college graduate bailing out on a job in the DC area because she can't afford to buy any property reasonably close to work (and reasonably close here means within a 60-75 minute commute). She's looking to find something in North Carolina now.

We're planning on getting exactly what we want in Columbia in terms of a house, because luckily we'll be in a position to do so.

Up here in the DC area, folks will plunk down $400,000 for a piece of junk just to be in closer to work and in a good school district (some which are among the best in the nation). And it's not just the city - areas like Bethesda, MD, Arlington, VA, the Tysons-Dulles Corridor in VA, and the top notch school districts of Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County, VA have astronomical housing prices. Around those areas, and old town house will go for $300K-$400K, a new town house will go for $500K-$600K, and a decent single family house will be anywhere from $500K for smaller, older one to $800K and up for a newer, larger one (and we're talking postage-stamp lots, of course - about a fifth of an acre or less).

Further out in Loudoun/Prince William Counties, VA and Howard County, MD - it gets better in terms of price, but not by much. So many young educated families are moving to those areas (because they can't afford anything closer to DC) that their schools are rapidly catching up in performance to the inner counties.

Anyways - Columbia is much friendlier to aspiring homeowners. We're very happy for that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spartan    682

I agree with waccamatt. Richland NE Is definately where you want to be. There are plenty of options in that area too.

You might also consider Forest Acres. It won't be a bad drive from there, and its a nice well developed community. I think the schools there are in Richland 2. I'm not really sure where the line is though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With where you will be working, you won't have a difficult commute from Northeast Columbia. Deciding between Northeast and Lexington or Irmo/Harbison I would definitely choose Northeast. I will still put in a recommendation for Shandon, however. I know Richland One's test scores, etc. are not very good, but the schools Shandon is zoned for are just as good (and much more diverse) than the ones you will find in any of the suburban areas.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I respect your advice - I myself was born in the city of Chicago, lived their for four years, and then up through high school lived in a nearby, early-post-WWII-era suburb with good schools.

If I were, say, 24 or 25 and knew I wouldn't have kids for a few years, then I'd be more inclined to look at an area like Shandon. There seemed to be plenty of young couples around that area, and I'm sure we'd have enjoyed it. But now we're thinking about having a family soon, and for all the wonderful neighborhoods in the city, we'd like the chance to have some space and peace and quiet. I did look into Richland 1 schools - there are definitely some good ones like AC Flora HS, Dreher HS, and Satchel Ford Elementary, but I think Richland 2 is a better overall fit for us (keep in mind I have to balance my personal preferences with my spouses - she grew up in quiet suburban area on a 3/4 acre lot, so her preferences skew more NE Richland than even mine). I seem to like Richland 2's parents' commitment to their public schools (and I'm more pro-public school than my wife); wealthier parents in Richland 1 seem more likely to spring for private schools (which seem to be concentrated in the East/Southeast Columbia area - Heathwood, Hammond, Timmerman, etc.).

Also, had the choice been only between, say Shandon and Harbison, it would have been a much easier decision. I like the fact that in Richland 2, I have the option of diverse suburbia. Again, that doesn't mean I like the ugly stretch of sprawl on Two Notch, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. It also doesn't mean I have anything against the other suburban areas. We're just trying to find the right balance and "sweet spot" for us.

Thanks again...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with waccamatt. Richland NE Is definately where you want to be. There are plenty of options in that area too.

You might also consider Forest Acres. It won't be a bad drive from there, and its a nice well developed community. I think the schools there are in Richland 2. I'm not really sure where the line is though.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Forest Acres/Arcadia Lakes is the one area I haven't been in but would like to check out, at least for curiosity's sake. Location-wise it would be very good. I think most of Forest Acres is in Richland 1 (and generally has the better Richland 1 schools, I think), but the northern areas are in Richland 2. From what I've been able to gather, it is a less diverse and older area than NE Richland, but a nice, well-established neighborhood with a well-educated population. Perhaps comparable to older, maturing suburbs near DC, like a Bethesda or Arlington (with the attendant things like a stand-alone Starbucks (i.e., not inside a Barnes & Noble, organic/health-food store, etc.).

The houses there seem to be older (most of them are about 25 years or older, I'd guess), but at reasonable prices for a typical 4-bedroom house that could accommodate a family of 4 (if somewhat smaller than what you could get further out in the 'burbs). My guess is that this area would be familiar to me as I grew up in such an area, but as I said, it would be nice to live with some more elbow room, especially if it's not too far of a drive. That said, I definitely want to avoid any suburbs that have a significant amount of "Stepfordness" in them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
waccamatt    8

Forest Acres/Arcadia Lakes is the one area I haven't been in but would like to check out, at least for curiosity's sake.  Location-wise it would be very good.  I think most of Forest Acres is in Richland 1 (and generally has the better Richland 1 schools, I think), but the northern areas are in Richland 2.  From what I've been able to gather, it is a less diverse and older area than NE Richland, but a nice, well-established neighborhood with a well-educated population.  Perhaps comparable to older, maturing suburbs near DC, like a Bethesda or Arlington (with the attendant things like a stand-alone Starbucks (i.e., not inside a Barnes & Noble, organic/health-food store, etc.).

The houses there seem to be older (most of them are about 25 years or older, I'd guess), but at reasonable prices for a typical 4-bedroom house that could accommodate a family of 4 (if somewhat smaller than what you could get further out in the 'burbs).  My guess is that this area would be familiar to me as I grew up in such an area, but as I said, it would be nice to live with some more elbow room, especially if it's not too far of a drive.  That said, I definitely want to avoid any suburbs that have a significant amount of "Stepfordness" in them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I grew up in Forest Acres (after we moved here from NJ) and it is a nice older suburb, which is probably comparable to Bethesda. My brother lives in Potomac so I am pretty familiar with the DC area. The thing about Forest Acres and Arcadia Lakes, though, is that the residents are also much older and I don't believe there would be alot of young couples in those two towns. I believe you mentioned Lake Carolina earlier and if I had to live in the suburbs I think that is a place I would enjoy. I don't know if you were able to see the Village at Sandhill, but it is very convenient to the Lake Carolina development and should supply most shopping and entertainment needs that you would have. Ive placed a link below.

Village at Sandhill

Good luck in your search and if you have any questions, I'm in the banking industry and have been in the area a long time, feel free to PM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I grew up in Forest Acres (after we moved here from NJ) and it is a nice older suburb, which is probably comparable to Bethesda. My brother lives in Potomac so I am pretty familiar with the DC area. The thing about Forest Acres and Arcadia Lakes, though, is that the residents are also much older and I don't believe there would be alot of young couples in those two towns. I believe you mentioned Lake Carolina earlier and if I had to live in the suburbs I think that is a place I would enjoy. I don't know if you were able to see the Village at Sandhill, but it is very convenient to the Lake Carolina development and should supply most shopping and entertainment needs that you would have. Ive placed a link below.

Village at Sandhill

Good luck in your search and if you have any questions, I'm in the banking industry and have been in the area a long time, feel free to PM.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah - that was my impression of what Forest Acres would be like - mature, established, pleasant, but not a lot of young couples or young families. Even if we live further up in NE Richland, it would be nice to go around Forest Acres once in a while with the more urban Richland Mall and other interesting retail emerging around there. Like I said, I'm very fond of "border 'burbs" (as my brother calls them) because many of them are becoming interesting urban areas. Where I grew up near Chicago is also changing - there are 20-story condo buildings going up about 2 miles from my parents' house. Just by looking at a map, it seems the Trenholm/Forest Drive area could be a nice near-urban commercial node. Likewise for Shandon and beyound - it seems Garners Ferry is an up-and-coming commercial area - the photos I saw for the (Shoppes at) Woodhill looked good.

I'm also aware of the Village At Sandhill and it's proximity to Lake Carolina. In fact, after my wife and I drove around Lake Carolina, we drove over to the Village at Sandhill (should we abbreviate it VAS, VASH, [email protected]?) and shopped a little at the World Market there (short of having a Trader Joe's in Columbia, this is the next best thing, but I know there are local/regional places like Maggies' Market in Lake Carolina and Rosewood and EarthFare closer to the city). Unfortunately, I don't like the typical car-oriented strip development on the edges of the Village, which is what's opened up so far, but I am looking forward to the true "town center" core opening up soon. We'll have to wait and see how the complete execution plays out.

I'm glad Mr. Kahn stuck to his guns and is doing a project like this in a smaller, more conservative market. It can't beat authentic, organic urban development, but for suburbia it's definitely more humane than dense big-box development around an enclosed mall. Up here in the DC area, the "town center" concept is all the rage - people seem to like developments like Reston Town Center (the granddaddy of the concept), Fairfax Corner (I was actually there yesterday), and the Rio up around Gaithersburg, MD. Columbiana Centre is very nice and all, but I was actually quite shocked to see the level of traffic around Harbison on a normal weekend (it's obvious I would have to avoid the area around Christmastime like the plague) - it was more akin to our Tysons Corner or Schaumburg/Woodfield outside Chicago than the newer town center developments.

Well, regardless of what happens, I'll be coming back to here to find out more about neat, urban things in and around Columbia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JW2    0

Well I work in West Columbia so I was looking at either Lexington or Irmo, and I ultimately chose Irmo. The NE is a good area and it is closer to where you will work. I would have considered that area as well, except that it was too far from my office.

While I liked Lexington, here's what influenced me to choose Irmo as the place to buy my first home:

1) Proximity to freeway - I-26 is just a couple miles or so from my house. Hop on I-26 and you can be at I-20 or I-77 in minutes.

2) Proximity to shopping and dining - Harbision is only about 4 miles from where I live. I can be there in 10 minutes or less. There are more things to do in this area than in Lexington.

3) Political climate - Although it may seem petty, I like the politics of Richland county better than Lexington county. I think Lexington county is not as "progressive", for lack of a better term, than Richland county.

That's about it. Both areas have comparable real estate prices. Actually, as I recall, there were a lot of houses in NE Richland county that I wanted to look at, but were too far away for my purposes. I think the prices are a little better in that area too. It wouldn't have been worth the time/gas/wear & tear on my vehicle to save a bit on the house price though.

I'm sure that you will be happy with whatever area you choose. Keep us informed.

Edited by JW2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi again to all - just wanted to say thanks for all the nice comments. We have indeed decided to live in NE Richland, and we're very happy to be moving to the Columbia area.

Now we can talk about all the other great things to see/do in the Midlands - but that will be other topics, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pricemiller    0

I grew up in Columbia and have lived in California all my adult life. I am considering moving to Cola with my partner part time. A loft condo or a new high-rise would be great. I love that Columbia is a city "on the verge of great things" and would like to be in a mid-sized city like Cola. I like that Columbians are friendly and seem to be genuinely excited about the things happening there economically and culturally. I am a moderate progressive politically. I love art and probably would be doing a lot of painting with my time in Columbia. I would love to here from those familiar with the city what you think Columbia might offer someone like me. Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Doug L    0

I too was born here in Columbia and lived the bulk of my adult life elsewhere. I had my own business in Philadelphia, PA, and spent most of my time between Washington, DC, and New York, NY. Needless to say that is the liberal bastion of this country which fitted my philosophy just fine.

I chose to retire here in Columbia because of the perception that Columbia was just beginning to blossom. I have not been disappointed! I really enjoy the diversity and culture that USC brings to the area, and to a lesser degree Fort Jackson. Columbia is truly a dynamic, diverse, and international city.

Don't misunderstand, Columbia is still replete with the typical Bush conservatives that only care about themselves and the rest of the world be damned; but it is at a tolerable level here in the city. The balance of SC is incurably ultra conservative to the point that it keeps the state at the bottom of all the 'good' lists and at the top of all the 'bad' lists, however, I do see a little sunshine peeking through the political clouds. Columbia, on the other hand, is considerably more progressive than SC in general.

Come on home! We'll keep the light burning for you........................................... :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
emerging.me    0

It sounds like you'll dig it here. I share your enthusiasm for Columbia as a "mid-sized city on the verge." Honestly, I would have probably left here five years ago if it weren't for the feeling that the city is on the verge of something huge. A number of big things that have been brewing for a long time are just now starting to materialize, so you would be coming in at a good time. Personally, I get a little frustrated every now and then that Columbia isn't already further along -- this is not to say that Columbia hasn't already "got it goin' on" in a lot of ways, but I see *so* much potential in this city and change happens slowly here. But the pace is quickening and if I relocated to another city like Austin, St. Pete or Boulder -- one that has already emerged -- I couldn't be a part of this new movement. It's really exciting if you keep your head up.

Since you mentioned politics... I'm very much a centrist, so living in a liberal-minded city in a highly conservative state gives me the opportunity to be subversive in just about every possible scenario. And I like that. :)

If you are thinking along those lines, then I'd say you'll love Columbia. And coming from Cali, you'll love the cost of living the most.

Are you going to rent or buy? My wife and I are always looking, so I'm really up on the housing market here... I'd be happy to suggest some living spaces if you're interested. I'm sure the other UPers would have suggestions too. Just let us know your requirements for space -- square footage, number of rooms, general vibe, proximity to restaurants and retail, etc.

Good luck with your plan to move back to SC! I think you'll be glad you did.

Edited by emerging.me

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
waccamatt    8

I agree with the other posts; Columbia is booming and it is only getting better. I am probably (ok definitely) further to the left than most people, especially on social issues, and I am very happy in Columbia. My roots are in NYC and NJ, so I know other areas, but I have lived in Columbia for a long time and love it here. The cost of living is wonderful and salaries are not bad, depending on what line of work you're in. Feel free to ask some specific questions and I'm sure we will be able to answer them. Come on down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CorgiMatt    79

I agree with the other posts; Columbia is booming and it is only getting better. I am probably (ok definitely) further to the left than most people, especially on social issues, and I am very happy in Columbia. My roots are in NYC and NJ, so I know other areas, but I have lived in Columbia for a long time and love it here. The cost of living is wonderful and salaries are not bad, depending on what line of work you're in. Feel free to ask some specific questions and I'm sure we will be able to answer them. Come on down.

Ditto for me too! I'm also left of center.

Columbia is a blue island in a red state.

Art is taking on a life of its own here now. The Richland-Lexington Cultural Council has a new director. He's been on the job a year and his second year mission is to make obvious progress by using what he learned from his first year feet-wetting Columbia area experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pricemiller    0

Ditto for me too! I'm also left of center.

Columbia is a blue island in a red state.

Art is taking on a life of its own here now. The Richland-Lexington Cultural Council has a new director. He's been on the job a year and his second year mission is to make obvious progress by using what he learned from his first year feet-wetting Columbia area experience.

I appreciate all the responses to this post so far. Definitely, you guys make Columbia sound like a place I want to live. I am not sure when it will happen. Business has been slower than ever lately after an amazing 4 years (real estate in Palm Springs) so not sure when we will make the move to get another place. Whenever I make a move to Columbia it would be as a retiree and I would hopefully be able to purchase a property.

I do consider myself more left in recent years because of the far right current administration, but could still consider moving South part time. Social issues are critical to me. Human rights, gay rights in particular and what will make everything better is education and the arts being emphasized! I would like to be part of a comunity where I can work in some way to help positive change come about.

By the way, I have on my computer a great aerial shot of Columbia taken from the SE of DT in 1988 (I believe?) by a friend also from Cola in LA that I lost track of. Can any of you guys give me some pointers on how to post this shot on UP?

Edited by pricemiller

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Doug L    0

I appreciate all the responses to this post so far. Definitely, you guys make Columbia sound like a place I want to live. I am not sure when it will happen. Business has been slower than ever lately after an amazing 4 years (real estate in Palm Springs) so not sure when we will make the move to get another place. Whenever I make a move to Columbia it would be as a retiree and I would hopefully be able to purchase a property.

I do consider myself more left in recent years because of the far right current administration, but could still consider moving South part time. Social issues are critical to me. Human rights, gay rights in particular and what will make everything better is education and the arts being emphasized! I would like to be part of a comunity where I can work in some way to help positive change come about.

By the way, I have on my computer a great aerial shot of Columbia taken from the SE of DT in 1988 (I believe?) by a friend also from Cola in LA that I lost track of. Can any of you guys give me some pointers on how to post this shot on UP?

I have a website that has tons of pics of Columbia and lots of information about the arts ,performing arts in particular, places to go, etc., but I can't give you the address else I will be soundly scolded and possibaly baned from the blog by the administrator of Urban Planet. It started out as a labor of love for Columbia; but because I have some limited advertising on it I am forbidden to promote it on this blog. I understand that the powers that be don't want this blog to turn into a billboard!

I hope you can find it on your own. There are lots of pics of some of our urban neighborhoods too.

............................................................................. :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.