Resurrecting downtown
Resurrecting downtown

Lessons learned in neighborhood redevelopment could give Columbia officials tools to revitalize downtown and bring businesses to the area. Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation Executive Director Trent Ogilvie presented information about the neighborhood revitalization programs undertaken in east Columbia to the city’s Industrial Development Board Tuesday. Ogivlie said the same Tax Increment Financing grants used for neighborhood redevelopment can also be used for economic revitalization.

Ogilvie said the next step in the renovation of the East Hill and College Hill neighborhoods is attracting more commercial businesses. “You have pockets of existing retail that is there already,” he said. “You have to attract (major retailers) to do investment in these areas.” Developers also tried to make it easier for east side residents to walk downtown by renovating sidewalks and connecting roads that had been fractured by lack of paving and the ravages of time, Ogilvie said. During the program, he said the city found many of the roads in these neighborhoods “only existed on paper.” The main goal was to encourage residents to patronize businesses on the square, Ogilvie said. Columbia IDB President Harvey Church said he would like to see grocery stores and restaurants in the east side, which could help with the city’s overall economic development.

Seeing where businesses were once located can also help determine the best spots for new business, Ogilvie said.

“Sometimes to look at the future, you have to look at the past,” he said. “We have to ask how we can re-introduce retail into those particular areas in that community.” Bringing new housing to the area can also encourage commercial reinvestment, Ogilvie said. Redeveloping residential properties has been a major goal for the area’s revitalization. Ogilvie said organizations like Habitat for Humanity and People Helping People were already renovating homes to spur redevelopment in the east side when the Columbia Development Corporation Project’s began in 2011. Using this redevelopment as a catalyst, Ogilvie said the Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation and its partner Advent Community Development Corporation, were able to use grant money to help remove blight. A $500,000 grant from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program led to the demolition of dilapidated homes, renovation, new construction and even allowed the organizations to help prospective homeowners finance their down payments. “This private development raised property values,” Ogilvie said. “The high property values then raise property tax revenues, which then leads to increased revenue to pay off the original debt for the bonds issued to make improvements.”

Ultimately, Ogilvie said the blighted homes are returned to the tax rolls and provide property taxes for the city to do more projects.

Ogilvie said the most important part of any redevelopment project is just getting started. “Once you start a project, you see more projects coming in,” Ogilvie said.


Coil, K. (2014, May 17). Resurrecting downtown. Columbia Daily Herald, p. 2. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from