Day 2 of Columbus Chamber Inter-City Leadership Trip Highlights Connectivity, Riverfront Development

Staff Report From Columbus CEO

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Day two of the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Inter-City Leadership Conference to Nashville started at Cumberland Park. The 6.5 acre adventure play park is located on the Cumberland River’s east bank under the Shelby Street Bridge and is the flagship for the new Riverfront Revitalization Plan in Nashville.

Attendees experienced and learned about the renaissance of Nashville’s riverfront. Speakers from various organizations involved in the project shared how the improvements made to the riverfront are designed to provide new public attractions, parks and waterfront access, giving residents and visitors a reason to enjoy both banks of the Cumberland River. Public features completed and in process include fountains, public art, boardwalks, overlooks, piers, performance spaces, wetlands, plazas, new docking facilities, increased bikeways and open play space.

Since 1997, the Cumberland River Compact (CRC) and its members have worked to improve the quality of water in the Cumberland River Basin, and in doing so, to improve the quality of life fir residents. The CRC believes that water quality and a healthy environment are fundamental to sustainable, strong local economies and works with local, state and federal agencies, farmers, businesses, technical professionals, local officials, neighborhood groups and other watershed stakeholders who share this belief. All to ensure clean and abundant water sources that support, life, recreation, and economic well-being throughout the Basin. 

“We must plan for conservation the same way we plan for development” said Janet Regan, Cumberland River Project, Financial Manager. 

Many of the values and projects discussed regarding the Cumberland River are also prevalent in regard to the Chattahoochee River, specifically the work going on to leverage the Chattahoochee River Park in Uptown Columbus. 

For the afternoon the tour moved from the riverfront to the Gulch, an urban, mixed-use neighborhood in Downtown Nashville. The 60-acre Gulch was a bustling railroad yard with origins dating to before the Civil War. It fell in to neglect and blight following World War II until its revitalization story began in the 2000s with Nashville based MarketStreet Enterprises, a privately held real estate investment company. Today, The Gulch is a vibrant urban district and a popular destination for shopping, dining and entertainment due to MarketStreet Enterprise’s concentrated focus on the development of a single neighborhood. 

“A good mix of national, regional and local retailers is an part important of the Gulch’s success,” said Nicole Woodworth, Marketing Director, MarketStreet Enterprises. “Keep it funky. Give local businesses a chance to put their stamp on the it.” 

As the day continued a recurring theme emerged – connectivity – connecting destinations and providing easy access to public features. This is something that Columbus is already doing with the Rails to Trails project and is expanding in a major way with the Minimum Grid, designed to more attractively and easily connect Columbus’ core communities of Uptown and Midtown.

“Connecting communities. Do not design for tourist. Design for locals because tourist want to do what the locals do,” commented Ron Yearwood, Assistant Design Director, Nashville Civic Design Center.

This feeds into a bigger discussion of how to get locals onboard with what the city is doing. The big question at the end of the day was ‘How do we tell our story?’ Columbus has great assets and major momentum moving forward to address its deficiencies but how does it let the community know this, then how does it tell that story, to those outside of Columbus.