Coming together for a more attractive 'front door'

January 25, 2011 10:54:00 AM



Right now, it doesn''t look like much. Rains have left the open portion of Burns Bottom, at the entrance to downtown off of Highway 82, a bit of a mess. With today''s rain, make that a muddy, mulchy, mess, with workers having spent the past week or two cutting down and grinding up trees to make way for the new soccer complex. 


Across the street and up the hill, the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center stands newly renovated, but its surroundings leave much to be desired, at the moment. Workers are grinding up the parking lot and doing other messy work, as they put the finishing touches on the nearby office/condo complex behind the home. 


We''re in construction mode on two improvements to the city that will beautify the downtown''s front door and, in time, even transform how many of us interact with downtown itself. 


The ambitious Burns Bottom soccer complex, once completed, promises to bring droves of people downtown who might never visit the district otherwise. Never mind the promise of tournaments that would draw thousands of visitors from around the state and region. One only visit the fields at Cook Elementary during soccer season to see the need, and the potential, for a new soccer complex. 


And as we''ve reported before, Burns Bottom will be transformed into more than soccer fields, with nature trails and other elements designed to augment the natural beauty of the area, not sacrifice it. 


Monday, the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau voted on a plan to unify, through landscaping, the Tennessee Williams Home, the adjacent empty lot, and the office/condo complex behind it. Tree-lined streets, wisteria-filled arbors, and other trees and plants will transform the site. Included will be a performance stage and grassy area for small concerts and other gatherings, and picnic tables and other places to lounge. 


Both these projects share something in common, other than their quality. They show what can happen when the business community and government agencies work together. The county has taken the lead on the soccer park, with the city''s blessing, planning muscle, and in-kind services. The private sector is pitching in, in various ways. For example, Scott Hannon of Triangle Maintenance Services, whose crews are doing the mulching, expects to take a loss overall on the work, but wanted to help out on a worthy project. 


The CVB and developers Ronnie West and Mark Castleberry are working in tandem on the landscaping and parking projects adjacent to the Williams Home, with all sides agreeing to the plan. 


The CVB projects began as three separate things -- the Williams Home renovation, the office/condo building, and plans for an "art park" on the adjoining empty lot. Different people and groups had different ideas for all three. In the end, after everyone came together, we''re left with one vision that incorporates every element for the better of the whole. (Full disclosure: Our editor and publisher, Birney Imes, was involved with bringing in landscape architects to share visions for both Burns Bottom and the Williams Home area.) 


With these two projects, we''ve seen public and private partnerships at their best -- and everyone managed to play nice during most of the process. The end result of this collaboration will be a "front door" we''re sure to be proud of.