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Columbia’s Vista covers just four square miles, but is the site of $700 million in current development, well over half of the development in the entire city. Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR) and EngenuitySC hosted a forum July 19, with local leaders answering questions about the present and future of the district.

The panelists were Vista Guild Executive Director Meredith Atkinson, Scott Garvin of Garvin Design Group, Trae Judy of Music Farm Columbia, and Sammy Hendrix, representing the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports and Tourism.

Photo by Tia Williams

Photo by Tia Williams

Atkinson said the Vista is growing in all areas, but the biggest increase has been in residents. “It’s just incredible to see the number of folks who want to live in downtown Columbia. Just a few short years ago we had about 800 folks living in downtown Columbia,” she said. “In just a matter of a month or so, in August, we’ll have 5,000 people living in the Vista.”

Garvin, an architect and developer, said preserving the identity of the Vista through its buildings is crucial. “The beauty of the Vista is we have history, and these historical buildings are almost emotional to people.”

“I think one of the keys to the development in the past 10 years in the Vista and going forward in the Vista is to create activities for people,” Garvin added. He cited the arrival of Starbucks, saying that before it arrived and was followed by other shops, people would come for lunch or dinner nearby and then leave. The Vista Starbucks, Garvin said, has been the top Starbucks franchise in South Carolina in six of the 10 years since it opened. “The more we connect the dots with this kind of activity, the more vibrant it’s going to become.”

Photo by Tia Williams

Photo by Tia Williams

“The growth is just unprecedented. It’s just amazing to see everything that’s coming,” Atkinson said. “We’re really excited about where we are and it just continues to grow.”

The panel also talked about connecting the Vista with Columbia’s Main Street, improving parking, and ways to keep the growth going.

“Connectivity is a huge priority and a huge issue that we continue to have conversations (about) with the city,” Atkinson said. “We need to be able to safely walk, bike and stroll around the Vista. We need to be able to safely push a stroller, ride a bike or walk to anywhere in the Vista and up to Main Street, down to the river. Connectivity is a huge priority and a huge issue that we continue to have conversations (about) with the city.”

The full discussion is available in the following video.

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