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Columbia to put money into Main Street facades

By James T. Hammond
Published March 8, 2011

Columbia aims to give its Main Street a facelift, literally.

The City Center Partnership, along with the city, unveiled the new Commercial Façade Improvement Program for the downtown Business Improvement District.

Mayor Steve Benjamin said the Columbia City Council approved the incentive program to improve building facades within targeted redevelopment areas, rather than dispersing the money throughout the city.

 City Councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman speaks on new Commercial Facade Improvement Program. The initial target area comprises 36 blocks bounded by Gervais, Elmwood, Assembly and Marion streets. While the entire district is eligible to apply, the blocks of 1200-1700 Main Street are the city’s highest priority.

If a requested loan is approved, façade design services will be approved through contracts with architectural design firms with demonstrated knowledge of urban façades, officials said.

“We want to see as much demonstrated impact as possible in the first year,” said Benjamin.

Funding for the project is from a $428,000 federal community development block grant. Benjamin said he hopes the loans will stimulate private spending and result in as much as $1 million in construction spending on the downtown sector of Main Street over the coming year.

“The stakes are very high,” Benjamin said. “Revitalizing Main Street is a core tenet of what we stand for. If we can’t revitalize Main Street, then we will have failed.”

City Councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman said the aim is to ensure that the program works, and then to expand it to other targeted zones, such as North Main Street and Two Notch Road.

City Center Partnership was instrumental in the early stages of the creation of the Commercial Façade Improvement Program, a five-year forgivable loan opportunity for commercial property owners and tenants, with loan amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

The loan amount is split so that the applicant pays 20%; the city’s Department of Community Development pays the remaining 80%. Façade improvements boost the marketability of individual business spaces as well as the overall business district, officials said.

For more information, contact Amy Stone at 803-233-0620 or by email at

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