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Bull Street Commission gets back to work

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The Bull Street Commission reconvened Monday at City Hall with hopes of getting the word out about the future of the downtown development.

A commission was originally formed in 2013, with plans to meet every other month, but unforeseen circumstances allowed time to lapse. The last recorded meeting of the commission was 2014.

“Early on, when this was just a figment of our imaginations of what could happen, there was a prevailing belief that all of these big ideas couldn’t co-exist together,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said Monday. “There was good strong, constructive criticism as to how we could come up with an eventual product we could come up with, and I can’t tell you how valuable that has been. I anticipate we will fundamentally re-shape the future of the city.”

Chairing the commission is City Councilman Howard Duvall who was a staunch detractor of the project when it was first presented, but has now taken up the mantle of BullStreet after being elected to City Council.

“Our charge is to be the cheerleaders for this development,” Duvall said. “We are an oversight committee, reporting back to the council on progress, as well as being the eyes and ears of the community.”

Robert Hughes of Hughes Development presented the council with an overall development status and projected timelines on various projects.

“We are a little less than three years into a 20-year process, and already 110 of the 181 acres are either under contract, under development or sold, that’s 15% into the project with 65% accounted.” Hughes said. “We’re way ahead of where I thought we would be.”

“This site has to be authentic to Columbia. The buildings help it feel authentic, the trees help it feel authentic, but if we don’t fill it up with a great mixture of national, regional and local users, it won’t be authentic to Columbia.”

Hughes talked about the new 20-plus acre park that he says is one approval away from starting full design of the park and getting underway with construction.

“We don’t talk much about this, but we feel it will be a big win to get this started and have it finished sometime next year,” Hughes said.

There were questions raised about the park including the storm water impact, but Hughes said they are trying to utilize as much of the current infrastructure that is in place while also daylighting the stream.

“We’ll be bringing the stream back up to grade, allowing it to flow naturally through dirt rather than a concrete pipe,” Hughes said. “We think we will be able to decrease the amount of water flowing off our site from today’s standards after finishing with development. We know how important storm water and the flooding issues have been in Columbia, our hope is to improve downstream flows with the park design, rather than having an adverse impact.”

The commission closed the meeting choosing future topics they felt would be beneficial to the community including traffic, historic perseveration and the future of the park.

The commission plans to meet every other month with the next meeting set for June 19.

Reach Travis Boland at 803-726-7543.

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