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Answered: What if... Columbia looked like this?

From skytrams that go over 378 to river development and pedestrian bridges, here are some of your answers for What if... Columbia looked like this?


What if, the tops of the parking garages were event spaces with rooftop gardens | AI generated images by Google’s Image FX

We asked, and you delivered. Hundreds of you responded to our call-out in the newsletter and on social media for “What if... Columbia looked like this?”

We dug through the answers and pulled a few that shared similar themes. As a reminder, this is meant to get a conversation started. We don’t have any plans (or the means) to develop gardens atop every parking garage.

Economic development

Folks want to see economic development and several answers focused on our rivers. What if...

“There was a restaurant overlooking the Congaree River?” — Gale P.

“The river walk was like the marsh walk in Murrells Inlet. Lined with bars and restaurants?” — John B.

Ai photo of river development

What if .... “there were fabulous restaurants, cafes, and cute shops along the riverwalk walking path?” | AI image via Google’s ImageFX

“There were fabulous restaurants, cafes, and cute shops along the riverwalk walking path? And the city was much bike and walking-friendly? And the roads were fixed so we don’t lose our cars in the potholes?” — A.C.

“The underground area became a larger shopping or bar area like in Atlanta?” — Brandi L.

Emphasis on more pedestrian-friendly spaces

There is a strong call for better walkability and bikeability. What if...

“Main St. was pedestrian only?” — Gunnar B.

“We made main street pedestrian only and had a permanent soda city market with infrastructure like a canopy and misting fans to protect patrons and vendors from the elements?” — John D.

“Started turning the railways to greenways, making palatable bike and walking routes across the city?” — @wh1t3_0ut

“We have a robust intown greenway and bike network that is stitched together with over-the-top awesome playgrounds and parks for our community’s children? — @cromerspnutss

“Columbia, SC becomes one of the best 15-minute cities in the world? Bikeable, walkable neighborhoods and the safest streets for every pedestrian young and old. A city that promotes healthy living and happy, sustainable communities. Less cars equals less pollution, less noise, less accidents. — Char C.

AI image of Gervais Street Bridge

What if... “The Gervais Street Bridge was shut down to traffic and converted to a pedestrian bridge?” | AI image via Google’s ImageFX

“The Gervais St. Bridge was shut down to traffic and converted to a pedestrian bridge?” — @capt.zachsteinhauser

“I’d be happy with more sidewalks and bike lanes.” — @theresa_m_penney

Easier transportation options

Several folks called for easier travel + improved public transportation. What if...

“Cola’s soda cap connector ran all over the city and was free? What if the city was covered in protected bike lanes?” — Phil W.

“Columbia had an above-ground fast train taking passengers from Columbia to Charleston, Charlotte and/or Greenville in record speed?” — Amy A.

AI photo of 378

What if... “There was a sky tram over Lexington Maine street and 378?” | AI image via Google’s ImageFX

“There was a sky tram over Lexington Maine street and 378?” — Alison C.

"[There was] a light rail down the medians of the interstates?” — Kathryn F.

"[There was] better access to public transportation for the rural counties near Columbia?” — Layla M.

Community building initiatives

There is a focus on community support systems, events, and a general sense of local pride. What if...

“We had affordable downtown senior living communities where baby boomers could move into smaller homes with community amenities, green spaces, and shared gardens along with other generations?” — Lee Ann K.

“Columbia had more free community spaces and spaces that didn’t involve food, alcohol, and caffeine?” — @madisongeb

“We had an art center like in Greenville that offers classes in jewelry making, woodworking and turning, and sculpture with a full gallery that sponsors shows by artists?” — A. White

Screenshot 2024-04-25 at 9.19.59 PM.png

The updates to Finlay Park include a revitalized fountain and new walkways. | Rendering from the City of Columbia via the design team, Stantec + LS3P.

“We had family movie nights and concerts at the Finlay Park stage, like in the old days?” — Joan W.

“We had native flower gardens in replace of more common urban landscapes… what if we had produce gardens in parks for locals to tend to together and share, what if we replaced grass that has to be mowed with native plants that’s don’t require maintenance thus saving energy? What if all rooftops had greenery? What if all local restaurants set up a system to share food that would be wasted with people in need?” — Maggie H.

We need more spaces where people can just exist without spending money.” — @mandythepenguin

Use your voice

Though you are more than welcome to always share your thoughts with us via our comments section or inbox about any local news, the most we can do is encourage you to share those same thoughts in a way that brings about the changes you want to see in our city, whether you have a good idea for development or you’re in opposition to one.

Start here. We’ve compiled a Local 101 guide for Soda Citizens, familiarizing you with how Columbia’s City Council works, and helping you explore your role as an active citizen. We periodically add to this guide when a reader emails us with a specific question — hints: how our “Cities vs. Counties” segment was written.

In our most recent installment of this guide, we explored the role of the Planning and Development Services department tab on the City of Columbia’s website. This department’s goal is to oversee developments around the City to ensure that each project enhances the quality of life for citizens, promotes neighborhoods, supports businesses, and protects the environment.

Using your voice in the short-term

If you have a concern, question, opposition, idea, or thoughts about developments in Columbia, the City of Columbia Planning Commission invites public participation in their upcoming meetings, with the next one taking place on Thursday, June 13 at 4 p.m. in City Council Chambers (1737 Main St.; on the third floor.)

Using your voice in the long-term

If local government is an interest or passion of yours, consider joining a local board or commission. The City of Columbia has several vacant seats on many boards.

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