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The Columbia of the future

Flashback 15 years ago. Downtown was so much different than it is today.

Remember? No Colonial Center. No convention center. No EdVenture. No art museum. No Three Rivers Greenway.

The Vista was taking its first tottering steps, with a handful of restaurants and bars trying to eke out an existence among some pioneering art galleries.

A lot of people didn’t want to walk downtown, much less live there. And the whole area had a serious case of the uglies.

Even in 2000, the Republican presidential candidates debated in an abandoned Lowe’s in West Columbia because downtown didn’t have a suitable facility.

Today, the Vista has nearly 50 restaurants and bars. Thousands of people flood the district for Artista Vista in April. Bruce Springsteen has rocked the Colonial Center. Barack Obama has fired up the convention center. And office towers, apartments and condos are sprouting up just about everywhere.

To steal a line from the old Virginia Slims commercial, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

But where are going?

Folks, it’s time for Downtown, Phase II.

So, we asked a varied and eclectic group of people how to make downtown better, for ideas that will take us to the next level.

It’s that pesky vision thing.

Here’s what they came up with ...

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