North Columbia’s recent growth has not been by chance, but rather by choice, according to Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
“The unprecedented North Columbia renaissance hasn’t happened by accident,” Benjamin said in his State of the City address Tuesday evening at Columbia College. “It’s a result of years of hard work, planning and investment.”
Benjamin detailed the $50 million investment in North Main and the improvements for Hyatt and Greenview Parks, along with the 80-acre Azurest at Heritage Creek that will feature shops, residential areas and a medical clinic.
“This community is on the brink of a transformational year,” Benjamin said.
In December, Cason Development Group announced the purchase of four additional buildings in the growing Cottontown development on Sumter Street in North Columbia. The development already features Indah Coffee, The War Mouth restaurant and Cottontown Brewery.
Benjamin compared the area’s growth to the recent expansion of downtown in student housing and mentioned repeated years of budget surplus. He said he wants Columbia to be a “seamless city,” creating an environment where improvements to one segment of the community benefit the entire city.
“We know that investing in a vibrant downtown is an expression of value. But the practical benefits are even more remarkable because growth in our city center, because it generates new revenues without the corresponding cost in infrastructure and services, allows us to invest across the entire city,” Benjamin said. “In other words, new private investment downtown is how we pay for new public investments in Hyatt Park, new small business incentives in the North Main and Farrow Road corridors and new public safety initiatives citywide.”
One of those neighborhoods feeling the effects is West Beltline Boulevard. Benjamin praised the cooperative-model grocery store, urban farm and city park set to open in September 2019.
“We choose not to pass our challenges off to the state or federal government,” Benjamin said. “We choose a bold vision of infrastructure, innovation and inclusion.”
He also talked about the growing momentum on Bull Street and how private investment in the city is becoming much more attractive.
“New retail comes to the neighborhood because they see the writing on the wall as momentum moves north. New restaurants open their doors because we’re only five minutes from Spirit Communications Park. Deliberate progress born out of an interconnected and integrated strategy, that’s the heart of smart growth. That is what it means to be a seamless city.”
In 2017, Bull Street saw the addition of Capgemini to office space in the First Base Building, along with the groundbreaking for both the TownPark at BullStreet town homes and the 196-unit Merrill Gardens senior living community at Gregg Street and Freed Drive. The development’s first restaurant, Bone-In Barbeque, is scheduled to open in the Ensor Building this spring.