Community Reviews Changes to Capital City Mill District

Possible changes to Columbia's mill district

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Phase Two of Imagine Mill District's plans to renovate the Capital City Mill District are underway. On Wednesday, Imagine Mill District held a community meeting to review the newest drafts of the recommendations.

"Oh, I'm extremely excited about it, this is home to me," said Irene Dumas Tyson, a planner for Imagine Mill District.

Dumas Tyson has been planning these renovations for months. 
 
"This entire district is a wonderful gem in the City of Columbia, and in a lot of ways, though, it feels really cut off," Dumas Tyson said.
 
With the help of the community, Dumas Tyson wants to take the area from a pass-through to a destination.
 
"So tonight, we presented those first draft recommendations to get their feedback," Dumas Tyson said.
 
Some of the recommendations included what is called a road diet. That is taking a wide road, making it narrower, and adding amenities like bike lanes and streetscapes. These road diets will apply to Lincoln Street, Olympia Avenue, Whaley Avenue, and Heyward street.
 
"You're going to make the road safer and you're going to accommodate not only cars and trucks, but pedestrians and cyclists," Dumas Tyson said.
 
The biggest feedback of the night, though, was about the railroads.
 
"If someone wanted to come down for lunch, for instance," said Richard Burts, a Columbia resident, "it really is possible to get stopped 30 minutes by the train."
 
The group decided consolidating the tracks on Assembly Street is their top renovation concern, but Burts says the wait is not the only problem.
 
"It's very disruptive to anybody trying to sleep down here, people doing business, here for a show, or what have you," Burts said, referring to the train's horn.
 
The answer was grade separation, which means to get the railroad track and cars off of the same plane. The Imagine Mill District gave the community the option of a flyover, where cars would be directed over the train. This idea was a cause of concern for some.
 
"If we do create a flyover, then where is that traffic going to dump out into the neighborhood?" Burts asked. "There's going to be a volume of traffic there."
 
The group decided against the flyover, and chose to have traffic directed under the tracks. Dumas Tyson recommended a little of both.
 
'You might have to raise the elevation of Huger Street some, and then the rail can go underneath," Dumas Tyson said, "so it's not just necessarily a complete deep dig, so it's a little bit of raising, a little bit of going under, because then you won't need the flyover.>
 
None of the decisions are set in stone, but will act as guidelines of where the plans go next. The funding for the projects is still to be determined. Dumas Tyson says they hope having a community backed plan in place will make them more competitive for public funding or private investors.


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