Jun
11

Columbia’s Main Street Momentum Continues

By

Walk along Main Street in downtown Columbia on any day of the week, and you’ll see people dining at tables on the sidewalk outside Good Life Café, shopping at Mast General Store, toting cups of ice cream from Paradise Ice. By 6 p.m., there’s often a half-hour wait for a table at Bourbon.

The energy on the street is palpably different than just a few months ago — people are actually coming here not just because they work in an office downtown, or because the bus station’s nearby and they have nowhere else to go, but because they want to be here.

It wasn’t always like this. Downtown Columbia, like so many downtowns across the country, fell on hard times during the ’60s and ’70s as commerce moved to shopping malls outside the city center and middle- and upper-class people moved out of urban centers.

But things have changed. Beginning around 2002, developer Tom Prioreschi started converting old buildings into apartments downtown, luring the first brave souls back to Main. A major streetscaping of Main between Gervais and Laurel was completed in 2008. And in the years since, city leaders have wooed businesses, funneled money downtown for façade improvement grants and promoted the corridor’s rebirth.

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