Plan seeks to make downtown Columbia enjoyable for all ages

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COLUMBIA - The downtown Community Improvement District (CID) wants everyone of all ages to see what the district has to offer.

A draft completed by the downtown CID and a non-profit organization called The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) proposes goals to help manage the city’s entertainment venues, public safety and quality of life. The draft is called the Hospitality Zone Assessment and aims to identify tactics to better serve all of Columbia’s population, not just university students.

The draft lists six goals, that should be considered for a sociable city. Some of the overarching themes include:

  • Entertainment: supporting venues that provide multi-generational entertainment
  • Public safety: adapting regulatory and compliance systems for an active night time economy
  • Venue safety: internal policies and procedures to improve service, safety and security
  • Multi-use sidewalks: managing public spaces for events
  • Quality of life: managing impacts from sound, trash, traffic and nuisance complaints

The RHI visited the city between May and September and met with elected officials, hospitality industry members and community development leaders to look at the current standing of the District’s potential. The organization also worked with Katie Essing the executive director of downtown’s CID.

Essing said there are many events for people of all ages, but the city plans on improving the communication efforts to advertise those events. She said the CID plans to create a central location for event information.

About 80 different people and companies participated in discussions for the draft proposal. The Blue Note took part in some of the early stages of the planning. Matt Gerding, the owner of The Blue Note, said there is a misconception of downtown being dangerous and catered towards university students.

“I think one of the things the city could do, and I think this was one of the recommendations from this assessment, was to create an environment that fosters more daytime and nighttime activity that appeals to families and younger professionals,” Gerding said.

The draft also addresses issues faces such as vandalism and high rent prices that could deter small shops from opening.

Joe Chevalier co-owner of Yellow Dog Bookshop, is concerned about something much more than just high rent prices.

“My great fear is that this building will be knocked down because of high rise potentials and we would have to either move out for a year while it was constructed or we may be priced out all together,” he said.

The CID plans on briefly updating members at its meeting on Tuesday, and will discuss the draft in more detail at its November board meeting.