Columbus officials have a vision for the city’s downtown riverfront area, to make it a destination point with recreation and social opportunities.
Turning that vision into reality is the challenge, though.
The city hasn’t redeveloped a riverfront area before, so deciding what the area should look like and include, how to pay for the project and the steps involved in the process are new to local officials.
However, they are doing a smart thing by trying to learn firsthand from other cities who have successfully transformed riverfront areas.
Recently a group of five city leaders — Mayor Jim Lienhoop; Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.; Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce; Tracy Souza, president and CEO of the Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County; and Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center — visited Greenville, South Carolina, for the 2017 CEOs for Cities Greenville Spring Cluster Workshop. There they learned how Greenville transformed its riverfront, which features a waterfall, into a vibrant area with recreation, shopping and entertainment.
During the visit, the Columbus officials learned of Greenville’s motivating factor — to be the top destination for foreign investment in the United States — and the amount of persistence to make the project become reality: more than 20 years of work.
Whether Columbus can create a vibrant and attractive riverfront area that serves as a destination point remains to be seen, but city officials are better armed with information to make important decisions on such a project — such as whether one is even viable in Columbus — after getting an up-close look at a success story.
City officials are going about the riverfront redevelopment project the right way, giving it a better shot at success if local leaders move forward with it.
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