An always-evolving city: A look at Columbia’s past and how it could change in the future

The "Columbia Compass" plan looks to keep the city changing leading up to its 250th anniversary in 2036

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —A city is always evolving, but much like it has over the last century, Columbia might see some changes in the next few years.

City planners are laying out their road map for the Capital City’s future, but keeping in mind aspects of its past.

Back in the 1920’s, Columbia was not the same city it is today, both in geographical limits and the lifestyle of its citizens.

“You may have been able to walk from your house, which could have been a few blocks away or even a block away. There were ample examples of people’s homes on Huger Street and Assembly Street,” said John Sherrer, the Director of Cultural Resources for Historic Columbia.

With cars starting to share the roads with horse-drawn carriages and electric street cars, some people living in the Roaring Twenties saw some changes up in the sky.

“The landscape, the cityscape, was being dotted with what we call today modest skyscrapers. Columbia as a capital city was embracing the opportunity to become modern,” Sherrer said.

According to a map from back in 1928, most of the area that surrounds the two-mile radius around the Vista was occupied by mills, factories, or farmland.

Williams Brice Stadium was not built until 1934, the South Carolina State Fair Grounds just moved to its current location, and the area around Fort Jackson (then called Camp Jackson) was agricultural.

Sherrer said the 1920’s also saw a development in suburban communities within Columbia, like Elmwood, Waverly, Heathwood, and Melrose Heights. since more people moved out of the original city limits.

Even though the last century has seen a lot of changes in Columbia and the surrounding area, Columbia leaders are already gearing up for what the next few years have in store.

“Columbia Compass” is the city’s comprehensive blueprint for changes that could come to the city just in time for Columbia’s 250th anniversary in 2036.

The plan is split up in categories like land use, transportation, population, economic development, and housing.

The city has been rolling out similar plans for the last few decades, saying it’s necessary to give people a chance to see what could happen to their community.

“It sets forth some short-term and long-term priorities for the city, and so some of those long-term priorities are going to take a couple of years to implement, so being involved in the beginning stages of those is important to let them know what might be happening in certain corridors, their neighborhoods from that kind of perspective,” said John Fellows, the Planning Administrator for the City of Columbia.

Fellows said the plan encompasses the entire city and doesn’t zero in on any particular areas. However, he does say keeping the historic districts vibrant, possibly through training people how to maintain historic properties without having to call people up from Charleston.

An emphasis on keeping history alive while also keeping an eye towards the future is something Sherrer says is important towards keeping the city vibrant.

“The last thing Columbia or any other city wants to become is cookie-cutter. Historic preservation is something that can go hand-in-glove with new development,” Sherrer said.

The City of Columbia will be holding four public input meetings to discuss the “Columbia Compass” project.

  • Wednesday, January 8 (5;30 p.m-7:30 p.m., Richland Library Main, 1431 Assembly Street)
  • Thursday, January 9 (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Richland Library St. Andrews, 2916 Broad River Road)
  • Tuesday, January 14 (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Richland Library Southeast, 7241 Garners Ferry Road)
  • Thursday, January 16 (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Busby Community Center, 1735 Busby Street)
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