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Columbians dream big for future riverfront development

We asked, and you answered. We wanted you to think big and share with us the dream development you would bring to our rivers if you had the power to do so. See what our readers said.

congaree river

Walk along Columbia’s trails to enjoy river + skyline views. | Photo by @realadampowell

Table of Contents

We asked, and you answered. We wanted you to think big and share with us the dream development you would bring to our rivers if you had the power to do so.

Here are some of the key themes:

Green Spaces and Environmental Stewardship

“Green space that preserves the natural environment. We do not need more development.” — Michelle W.

The protection of the river and its natural beauty was a top priority for some folks. Residents stressed that development should enhance and protect the river while ensuring environmentally friendly designs. Many locals suggested preserving the natural environment or developing green spaces with minimal impact on nature.

Restaurants and entertainment

“More commercial and community utilization of the river.... other cities have more restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bridges, bike paths, parks and sidewalks along their rivers making them more desirable to spend time at and enjoy nature. Why can’t Columbia do this?” — Tara M.

“Restaurants/bar, shopping, in/outdoor music venue, fountain, green spaces, coffee shop, history of penitentiary with artwork, venue for festivals, boardwalk, and trees for shade.” — Holly R.

A common theme was to create a vibrant entertainment district along the rivers. Residents envision restaurants, bars, cafes, and outdoor music venues that overlook the water. They seek a lively atmosphere with places to dine, socialize, and enjoy outdoor activities.


The view from Bierkeller Columbia. | Photo by @bierkellercolumbia

Pedestrian bridges

“I’d love to see a project such as Greenville’s series of pedestrian bridges that form an easy-to-traverse loop. I can imagine two bridges that connect Richland and Lexington Counties with spectacular views of downtown and various areas to stop and sit to the side.” — Michelle M.

Inspired by cities like Greenville, Austin, TX, and San Antonio, TX (hey, GVLtoday, SATXtoday, and ATXtoday) many suggested the construction of pedestrian bridges connecting different parts of the riverfront and bike lanes.

Good news for those who suggested this route — we recently shared about a new pedestrian bridge that’s planned for West Columbia to provide Saluda River access.

Unique attractions

“A great concert amphitheater, Pickleball, tennis, outdoor chess, outdoor lawn bowling, children’s playground, expanded riverwalk, etc. A place to socialize and learn.” — Carlos A.

Ideas ranged from historical exhibits about the canal and the area’s heritage to other outdoor unique attractions like mega chess, lawn bowling, or pickleball courts.


The Saluda River | Photo by COLAtoday

Mixed-use developments

“Semi-affordable apartments with a quality restaurant, bar, and venue space below. Walkable space along the cola side.” — @buchanbl

“I would like to see very dense mixed-use developments with lots of apartments for all income levels.” — Alex K.

While some locals resisted development, some called for mixed-use developments, featuring housing for various income levels like apartments or tiny home communities. The goal would be to create a dynamic, diverse community by incorporating housing + entertainment options into the riverfront.

It’s evident that Columbia residents have ambitious plans for their riverfront, aiming to transform it into a lively, nature-friendly, and inclusive space. While these are just dreams for now, they reflect a collective desire to make the most of the city’s incredible riverfront potential.

We extended this conversation to our social media as well. Take a look at what our followers said about their dream development on Instagram.