The City of West Columbia has received the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for its river district redevelopment project. The city won in the economic development category. Thirty cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives for consideration in the annual awards.
West Columbia’s River District, located along the Congaree River, already had dining, shopping and a riverwalk park with an amphitheater. The city wanted to expand development to resolve the area’s parking shortage while improving greenspace as well as pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.
The city used community meetings and engaged a professional planning firm to develop the district’s plan. A committee of educators, as well as parents of special-needs children and special-needs parents, worked to develop an inclusive park at the existing Carraway Park. The new park allows children of all capabilities to play in the same area.
An art review committee selected interactive sculptures for a new art park that provides an engaging experience for what would otherwise be just a parking lot. The location is now an artisan market. The park features a pathway, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, connecting several main streets. The newly added B Avenue Bike Lane, meanwhile, connects the River District to other key areas in West Columbia.
The project received support from grant funding coming from the state, Lexington County, local nonprofits and the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Hometown Economic Development Grants. Hospitality tax funding also supported the developments.
The River District once had a low-lying dirt lot that residents and visitors informally used for parking at the riverwalk. The site is now home to the Brookland Development, which includes housing for about 220 residents, a 200-space resident parking garage, 125 free public parking spaces and a restaurant. Numerous new businesses have located to the area, with a brewery coming to the nearby historic city hall and fire station.
“Officials with the City of West Columbia have started a riverside renaissance in the city with the district redevelopment,” said Todd Glover, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association’s website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.