ULI is opportunity for Columbia

By C. Grant Jackson

Senior Vice President/Community Development

Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

When an Urban Land Institute Advisory Services Panel comes to town in February, Columbia will have a chance to hear from, and take advantage of, some of the best land use talent in the country.

ULI was established in 1936 and has more than 30,000 members from more than 95 countries. The collaborative body includes developers, builders, architects, planners, public officials, community leaders, academics and a whole range of other types of individuals. ULI is a non-profit research and education organization with a mission of “providing leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.”

ULI South Carolina, formed in 2005, was the first statewide district council ever formed and has become a national model. The District Council has about 500 members, while the Midlands boasts about 90. Midlands members include Terry Brown and Jodie McLean, the CEO and president of EDENS respectively; Alan Kahn, one of Columbia’s premier developers; Leighton Lord, chairman of the board of Nexsen Pruet; Todd Avant, CEO of NAI Avant; Deepal Eliatamby, president of Alliance Consulting.

Public members include Fred Delk, Jim Gambrell and Krista Hampton from the city of Columbia, Tracy Hegler from Richland County, along with Richland County Council member Jim Manning. Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre is a member of the current ULI South Carolina Center for Sustainable Leadership Class. By way of disclosure, I’m a member of the Class of 2008-2009 and serve on the Midlands executive committee.

The panel being brought to Columbia on Feb. 11-14 by local organizations is a follow-up to the ULI Technical Advisory Panel, or TAP, that convened in the fall of 2011 to look at issues of connectivity, largely between Main Street and the Vista across Assembly Street.

The $60,000 cost of the 3-day Advisory Services Panel is being born by:

  • City Center Partnership
  • Columbia Development Corp.
  • University of South Carolina
  • Vista Guild
  • Five Points Association
  • Historic Columbia Foundation
  • Thompson and Co.
  • Ben Arnold Co.

A third of the cost, $20,000, is coming from the National ULI Foundation, and is apparently the largest such grant ever awarded by the foundation for a three-day Advisory Services Panel.

The community partners are crafting the project assignment, but largely asking the panel to look at:

  • How do we create a plan and community vision for connectivity, to identify best ways to tie the separate urban areas of the city together?
  • How should we prioritize enhancements including long-term and short-term projects and easily accomplished projects?
  • How do we fund projects?
  • And most importantly, how do we move from plans to action?

The Advisory Services Panel will look at connectivity across a broader city center area, including Main Street, the Vista, Five Points, the Historic House and Museum districts, the Bull Street campus, USC, and  Innovista – including the waterfront district.

The panel will consider previous studies of the area, do site visits and interview stakeholders as well as hold an open public meeting, before issuing a report at a wrap-up meeting. The objective is not to develop any kind of master plan, but more so to lay out recommendations and a potential path forward for the community.

It will then be up to the community to move forward. Panel members themselves are prohibited from soliciting and performing work in the area covered by the panel’s work.

Numerous communities have leveraged ULI panels to help find creative, practical solutions to some of their most challenging issues.

The Columbia panel will be chaired by Alex Rose, senior vice president, Continental Development Corp., El Segundo Calif.

Rose has chaired and served on numerous national ULI Advisory Service Panels focusing on downtown and transit corridor redevelopment and revitalization and office development issues.

One of the most distinguished panel members will be Tom Murphy, ULI Senior Resident Fellow, ULI/Klingbeil Family Chair for Urban Development. Murphy served three terms as the mayor of Pittsburgh.

Tom Eitler, vice president for advisory services for the national ULI, will serve as staff. Other panel members include:

Dan Conway, president and director of marketing and economics, THK Associates Inc., Aurora, Colo.; Richard Dishnica, president, The Dishnica Co., Point Richmond, Calif.; Stephen Engblom, senior vice president, AECOM, San Francisco; and Calvin Gladney, managing partner, Mosaic, Washington, D.C.

Two members of the Technical Advisory Panel will be returning: Amy Barrett, vice president, Permar Inc., and John Knott, president and co-founder, the Noisette Co., both in Charleston.

Knott chaired the TAP last fall and urged both the Columbia partners and the National ULI to consider an Advisory Services Panel as the next step. Among recommendations from the TAP were:

Taking measures to reduce vehicle traffic and speed on Assembly Street, including widening and improving the median to make crossing the street safer; creating a civic icon at Gervais and Assembly streets, an intersection that was referred to as the “100% corner of the state;” and optimizing parking solutions downtown, including eliminating surface parking on prime pieces of property.

The TAP report is available at http://www.ctcbrownfields.com/columbia/ColumbiaTAPReportFinal.pdf.

C. Grant Jackson is senior vice president/community development for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 803 733-2513 or at gjackson@columbiachamber.com.

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