COLUMBIA — “What will Columbia be like in 10 years?"
That was the question asked by Columbia Tomorrow’s creator, Matt Thompson, a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, at a public forum Thursday night.
About 30 people came to the Fred W. Smith Forum at the Journalism Institute to hear the answers to this question and others provided by a panel comprised of city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy, Mayor Darwin Hindman, Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Jeff Barrow and Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller. Thompson moderated the discussion for the first half-hour, then took questions from the audience for the second half-hour.
“I see Columbia transforming from a big college town to a small city,” Barrow said.
“I’m convinced Columbia has a bright future,” Hindman said. “But when we grow, we need to emphasize the good aspects of urbanization and limit the bad.”
The panel members also consistently emphasized Columbia’s potential to become an “arts mecca” and become more physically active. They also want citizens to know that they will try to keep a somewhat rural feel to Columbia.
“People hate two things about urbanization: urban sprawl and urban density,” Hindman said.
The comment drew some laughter from the crowd, but Hindman became serious when he answered the final question from Thompson: "What worries you about Columbia’s future?"
“We shouldn’t debate whether we want growth or not because it’s coming no matter what,” Hindman said. “We need to make sure it has a positive impact. We need to be careful of how we invest each economic development dollar.”
Teddy said what worries him is Columbia’s frayed social cohesiveness.
“We need to find a way to stay connected as we grow,” Teddy said.
That’s one of Thompson’s main goals with his Columbia Tomorrow project. Thompson said he wants to provide context to Columbia as a city and plans to do so through his newly unveiled Web site, ColumbiaTomorrow.com, which provides news about development and growth in Columbia.