May 5, 2014 3:49:59 PM
The city of Columbus will hold a 4 p.m. public hearing Tuesday at the Columbus Municipal Complex to gather input on establishing an urban renewal area.
The area in question includes city-owned property on The Island, Fifth Street North extending to Highway 45 North, a section of downtown and a portion of Seventh Avenue North, a portion along Main Street beginning at 12th Street and ending just beyond the railroad tracks and the Warehouse District located in the Southside Historic District.
A committee formed to foster economic development on The Island made a request during the city council's April 1 meeting to convert the city-owned 5-7 acre parcel there into a park as a temporary placeholder to set up more redevelopment options in the surrounding area. Councilmen approved the request.
The Island committee also teamed with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Golden Triangle Development LINK on a site analysis of the property. The analysis results recommended converting the land into a park, establishing a redevelopment authority to foster development there and on other blighted city property, and dedicating a portion of The Island for commercial and residential use while leaving the remainder of it to be used for industry.
Discussion of a redevelopment authority, a five-member committee that would work to redevelop aging commercial space, has been on hold since the matter was first introduced during a special January meeting. Planning consultant Tripp Muldrow told councilmen during that meeting that forming an authority to behave like a private corporation could make the city more nimble in rehabilitating blighted parcels. The authority would be able to acquire and sell property, demolish buildings beyond rehabilitation and acquire and distribute funds.
TVA, which regularly does development planning throughout its coverage area, found that limited access into The Island limits vehicle traffic and limits the potential for commercial viability.
The land's location well below the road elevation could provide a challenge in building a safe entrance into the site from Island Road. The steep drop and limited sight distance coupled with the volume of industrial traffic to Columbus Scrap and the Lowndes-Columbus Port presents a safety issue, the report states. That same volume of truck traffic also presents safety concerns for pedestrians and stirs up dirt. Because the land is in a floodplain, site development costs would be higher than normal and there are more commercially viable sites on the Highway 45 corridor where financing would be better utilized, TVA reported.
An additional impediment to expanding south of Island Road is private property and the fact that the property owners are not currently interested in selling it, according to the study.
City Director of Planning and Community Development Christina Berry said she plans to use the report and recommendations from the public to help shape a mixed-use district with the park as a starting point.
"Public input early on is imperative in the planning process and assists in shaping the direction of growth and community improvements," Berry said.
Following Tuesday's hearing, the Columbus City Council will meet at 5 p.m. The council's agenda states the following matters will be discussed:
-- The proposed 25-year Cable One franchise agreement renewal;
-- Bids for roof and air-conditioner replacement at the Trotter Convention Center;
-- Abandonment of an unopened section of right-of-way at Eighth Avenue North;
-- Per diem for councilmen.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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