July 10, 2013 10:11:31 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
A team of city officials, county officials and developers has been formed to explore community development in the area known locally as the Island.
It was announced previously that Lowndes County supervisors Leroy Brooks and Jeff Smith as well as Columbus councilmen Gene Taylor and Kabir Karriem would serve on the committee.
Now, local developers and property owners on the once-popular piece of land have joined the committee. Stuart Phillips, Greg Rader and Tony Carley are on the committee. Brooks said it was Carley who approached him about the idea to redevelop the area.
Also on the committee are city planner Christina Berry, Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Director Roger Short and former Columbus Federal Programs and Building Inspections Director George Irby, who was instrumental in the development of the Riverwalk.
A recently-formed redevelopment authority steering committee involved in revitalizing multiple areas in the city, including the Island, met for the first time last month to discuss options with planning consultant Tripp Muldrow. Brooks said the Island group's role depends on what the redevelopment steering committee does.
"We can see how we can work together," Brooks said. "Certainly, we don't need to duplicate anything. We're only advisory in nature. We may just have a role in terms of what they're trying to do. I want (Berry) to come and explain for everyone some of her ideas and what she's looking at and we can make a determination on how we fit into the process."
Golden Triangle Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins said he had not been approached about providing input but he expects to have discussions with Berry this week on what he believed to be economic development options for the Island.
Brooks said he welcomes the Link's input.
"We don't want to leave any rock unturned. We know Joe and (the Link) tend to be more involved in industrial development and we see this more as community development, but we want everyone at the table that can bring something to the table," Brooks said. "It's not a small clique or anything. Right now we're just in the dialogue stage."
While discussions of revitalizing the area have been taking place for years, Brooks said, it became more serious with the city putting the finishing touches on the old Highway 82 bridge, which provides a pedestrian connection between downtown Columbus and the Island.
He said efforts to organize a meeting Thursday failed when some members had other obligations. The first meeting of the entire group would likely happen after Taylor and Karriem return from the Mississippi Municipal League conference next week.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.