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Awards honor those who helped beautify city

The Columbia Choice Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, schools and organizations that add to the city's appearance and quality of life, will be presented this week.

The Columbia Tree and Appearance Commission and Columbia Green co-sponsor the awards.

The awards ceremony is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Columbia Museum of Art. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door. The event is free for Columbia Green members.

Here are the winners in each category and comments from judges.

New Construction/Site Development: CanalSide Streetscape and Parks.

This project features more than 200 street trees that have both an immediate and long-term impact on the environment. A portion of the historic boundary wall has been retained, restored and incorporated into the overall development plan. The centerpiece of this project is CanalSide park and fountain, constructed from large granite blocks that originally were part of the prison cell block. An array of native plant species were selected for enhanced performance, lower water requirements and long-term sustainability.

Renovation/Reuse (tie): UCI Medical Affiliates, 1818 Henderson St.

When this company located in the Robert Mills Historic District from three other locations, the landscaping was designed with its employees in mind - to give them an oasis to come to away from their cubicles. . The plan compliments the building, reflecting its lines in the height of the bamboo and the parasol plants. The plantings soften the exterior of the building and the diverse colors, leaves and shapes work togetherThe area is designed to be sustainable, requiring minimal maintenance and limited watering once established.

Renovation/Reuse (tie): Carolina Fair Park, S.C. State Fair

The S.C. State Fair recently completed a $4.3 million parking lot renovation. Included in this project are 250 adult trees, paving and the installation of a storm drainage system which allows storm water runoff to filter into the soil on-site, rather than running off elsewhere. This is the largest application of this innovative storm water drainage technology in South Carolina.

Site Beautification/Management: Continental American Insurance Co., 2801 Devine St.

The groupings of palmettos surrounded by grasses and clusters of banana trees, underplanted with lantana, shows wonderful variety of texture and height, especially needed for this multi-story building. At the end of the summer the lantana is cut back and forms a hedge. It is almost unrecognizable as lantana, but is still covered in blooms. Their second building on the property repeats the same color scheme and uses similar materials. Even in back, the trees in the parking lot are planted in abundance. It is like a park.

Education: Richland County School District 1

Fifty percent of the plants were propagated in-house or grown from seeds. The plant diversity and use of color make the most of a minimum budget. The entrances of the local elementary schools welcome visitors, students and faculty to campus and make an inviting statement. Many of the plants attract birds and butterflies to the grounds.

Special Achievement: USC Belser Arboretum

The Belser Arboretum is now a valuable educational resource. As of 2006, it was not, due to a combination of neglect, overgrowth and invasion by non-indigenous plants. By taking on the restoration of the Arboretum, including restoring the topography, replanting indigenous species and creating an outdoor facility, Dr. Patricia DeCoursey has provided a great gift to both USC and Columbia. She spearheaded the extensive effort to transform the Arboretum from an overgrown and impenetrable wooded lot to a resource for students and nature lovers.

The Arboretum is now used by a variety of classes including ecology, religious studies, geology, women's studies, biology, philosophy and English. It is open to the public on visitation days.

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