McDaniel: Palmetto Compress a vital part of Vista, Columbia

May 3, 2013 


— What happens to the Palmetto Compress building is important not only for the ambience and very nature of the historic Vista neighborhood but for the direction of our entire city.

More is at stake here than one building. The community has made a major commitment to re-making the Vista these past 30 years, preserving its historic buildings and redeveloping the area as a major draw through proceeds from tax-increment financing. Besides the many shops and businesses now thriving there, condos and townhouse developments also have opened — literally making the area the newest neighborhood for downtown Columbia.

We already have invested millions of tax dollars there over these decades, developing vital infrastructure for new development and strong guidelines for protecting what is unique. It has been a major success, one for which we all should be proud. What sense does it make now to tear down the largest warehouse left in the very historic warehouse district we’ve worked so hard to remake?

After struggling with several plans for preserving the warehouse, Columbia City Council came up with a way forward that creates bridge financing for the project and apparently meets many of the concerns of divergent parties.

Consistent community preservation policies and strong development guidelines pay off.

Charleston has done a tremendous job preserving its historic waterfront and downtown business districts. These are now major showcases that attract regional tourism, drive economic development and make those neighborhoods attractive and livable. Property values for residents and business owners have increased. Charleston’s investments in historic infrastructure have paid huge dividends that have redefined the city and made it a magnet for new growth.

It takes a long-term perspective and a commitment to preservation. And it takes tough but consensual development guidelines that reflect the reality that we are all in this together.

Columbia is not Charleston. We have our own unique assets. But Charleston’s experience shows us that the difficult community debates that ensue over preserving these assets are well worth the struggle.

Consider them the necessary growing pains of a community moving toward.

Debbie McDaniel


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