STATE OF THE CITY

5 things Columbia must consider in 2013

January 23, 2013 

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin will give his annual State of the City address at 6 tonight in the Coble Ballroom of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The public is invited. Benjamin’s speech was not available in advance. But the city has much to consider heading into 2013.

BULL STREET. The future of the huge Bull Street project – believed to be one of the country’s largest-ever in-city development opportunities – remains to be settled. Greenville developer Bob Hughes and City Council have yet to come to agreements on the 183-acre neighborhood, including how much public money would be pumped into roads, water and sewer systems or parking garages.

FINANCES. Fiscal restraint continues to be a challenge even as the city’s books remain solid. Critics say City Council is returning to its spendthrift ways while basic needs, such as police and fire departments, need more resources. Last year, fire department leaders complained publicly that low wages are causing massive turnover and hurting firefighting.

CAPITAL CITY STADIUM. Columbia leaders are waiting to see what business will become the anchor tenant at the Capital City Stadium property the city sold last year. Wal-Mart had been thought to be that tenant, but the retail giant rejected the project late last year. It’s low-lying but prime real estate, across Assembly Street from USC.

INFRASTRUCTURE. City Council might activate special tax districts for improvements in the North Main-Bull Street area and in USC’s Innovista district. But some say the new penny sales tax already will address many of those needs. Meanwhile, the federal government is about to fine the city for failing to improve its sewer system. Making those improvements might mean foregoing water rate cuts for large businesses.

FIVE POINTS. Five Points violence remains a sensitive issue, though no major incidents have occurred in recent weeks. The police department flooded the entertainment district with patrols last fall, especially after USC’s home football games, after a series of assaults and gunfire. North Columbia, meanwhile, is seeking politicians’ similar attention.

-- Clif LeBlanc

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