The shape of things to come

The next big thing for Columbia

June 24, 2012 

Baseball wisdom says a team is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, and the same could be said for cities: A city is only as good as the next weekend.

Columbia has a lot of great things. But to thrive, the city needs something look forward to.

What does Columbia have? Consider this sampling.

Retail

It’s not the quantity but the quality that counts. And Columbia’s quality will get a boost this summer with the arrival of Whole Foods, near Devine Street and Fort Jackson Boulevard, followed by Trader Joe’s in early 2013 on Forest Drive. Consider them the Coke and Pepsi of specialty grocery stories.

The two grocery stores appeal to a similar demographic but compete, attracting cult-like followings, and some in Columbia long have lamented their absence.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s will join several other small speciality food stores, as well as larger chain groceries, all within a few miles of these two highly anticipated arrivals.

Bull Street

You know that giant red dome you see when driving into Columbia on Elmwood Avenue? It’s part of a massive 181-acre site of the former state hospital that a developer wants to transform into an urban paradise.

Plans include 3,550 homes, 13 entrances, a new through-street and possibly a minor league baseball stadium. It essentially would be a makeover for South Carolina’s capital city.

The project is still a long way from breaking ground, as the Greenville-based developer works with city of Columbia officials on permitting and other details.

But many say the development, if successful, would be a turning point in the city’s history.

Run, Columbia, run

Columbia is fast becoming a running haven in South Carolina.

The city hosted its first marathon in more than a decade in March, and there are at least four half marathons on Columbia’s running calendar each year.

But lots of cities have road races, and Columbia runners are still searching for a signature event — like Charleston’s bridge run — to set the city apart.

Two candidates: The Quarry Crusher Run and the Main Street Crit.

The Quarry Crusher is the only race of its kind in South Carolina, and possibly the Southeast. Runners run to the bottom of a rock quarry in the Olympia area, where they are surrounded by 375-foot walls of granite. The views are breathtaking, and so is the climb out of the quarry. The inaugural race was in April, but organizers hope to make it an annual part of Olympia Fest.

The Main Street Crit is a new race, scheduled this year for Dec. 8, that aims to be just as much of a social as athletic event. It’s a five-mile race on a 1 kilometer course. That means eight laps. The course is a square on Main, Hampton, Blanding and Sumter streets. With a compact course, spectators won’t have to go far to keep track of runners. And the race is in prime time, under the lights, to add that big-time feel.

Crits, short for criteriums, are usually bicycle races. The Main Street Crit could be the first running crit in the nation.

Artsy fartsy

Remember that art history class you took in college? The one you thought would be easy but wasn’t? Chances are, the Columbia Musuem of Art is bringing some of the paintings you studied to Columbia next year.

“Impressionism from Monet to Matisse” will run from Jan. 25 to April 21 next year. The show will feature 55 works of art, including some from the most well-known French impressionists, among them Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

At the very least — considering how “The Scream,” another famous impressionist work, sold this year at auction for $120 million — it’s a chance to see painted gold.

Adam Beam writes about the SC legislature for The State.

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