COLUMBIA — A new neighborhood association in downtown Columbia was approved Monday night by the City Council.
The Tenth Hitt Elm Locust Neighborhood Association or THELA was formed by TK Livingston and Kelly Veach, both of whom work within THELA's boundaries. Livingston owns property on Locust Street and Veach works for Shelter Insurance on Hitt Street.
On June 9, Livingston and Veach advocated for the association before the Special Business District board and won a unanimous vote in favor of the group.
Both Livingston, THELA's chairman, and Veach, THELA's vice chairman, said they are excited about the new association and the attention they think it will bring to the area.
They said they are particularly excited about the Tenth and Locust project, which is located in THELA. The Tax Increment Financing Commission recently voted to recommend the project’s qualification for a TIF to the City Council.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that there are people other than ourselves looking at the area,” Livingston said. “We want to make sure they get the same attention as Flat Branch area and The Tiger Hotel.” Livingston owns several properties on Locust Street.
“This area of town needs something to get it going,” Veach said. He said he hopes the project will be a “catalyst for future developments.”
Veach has more ideas for the neighborhood.
“I’d like to see multiuse buildings but not smack-dab in the middle of a residential area,” he said. He thinks that over time the area will be a mixture of both business and residential buildings.
“Part of the reason for this neighborhood association was we didn’t really have a voice,” Livingston said. “We have issues that are happening all around us. It’s an ever growing, changing area.”
Veach and Livingston hope to parallel objectives and goals with the SBD. With the organization of THELA, they think there will be more effective communication with the SBD and the city, particularly regarding crime.
“We have the same issues every neighborhood association has," Livingston said. "We have vandalism. Security’s a big issue. Graffiti. We have homeless people. We have property values that are changing left and right because of new development.”
The boundaries of THELA are a redrawing of the Tenth Hitt and Locust Association or THALA. The old neighborhood association was a rectangle with Ninth and Hitt streets as the west and east boundaries, and Broadway and Elm Street as the north and south. According to Livingston, THALA is now obsolete.
“You have to have a meeting so many times a year,” he said, and they were not doing that. “So they have no standing, really.”
The new association is defined by boundaries on 10th Street, Elm, Hitt, Paquin, College, Locust, Waugh and Broadway.