COLUMBIA — Bourn Avenue is a placid, tree-lined street just west of Stadium Boulevard that runs for half a mile between Rollins Road and West Broadway. Made up primarily of low, ranch-style brick homes built in the 1960s, Bourn is a neighborhood in transition as older homeowners slowly filter out and renters or families with children move in.
Dorothy Garrison, who has lived on Bourn Avenue for more than 45 years, said she has seen a lot of changes in the area in recent years.
BOURN AVENUE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION OFFICERS
Chairman Steve MacIntyre
Vice chairman Brett Gill
Secretary Jenn Sonnenberg
Treasurer Angel Arnall
Interested in forming your own neighborhood association? The city has a webpage that outlines the process.
"We know the neighbors on either side of us, but with a lot of rental properties around, people tend to come and go," Garrison said. "There hasn't been much in the way of community feeling the past few years."
Steve MacIntyre, a resident of the neighborhood for five years, hopes to change that. He recently helped organize his neighbors to form the Bourn Avenue Neighborhood Association to encourage residents to get to know one another and to give them a voice in discussions over land use and future development.
MacIntyre was elected chairman of the association at its first meeting May 26. The City Council approved the neighborhood group on Monday night.
Residents formed the association in part as a response to several proposed developments that may affect the neighborhood. Their main concern is a potential increase in traffic from a commercial development proposed by local attorney Aaron Smith.
The development, a 6,000-square-foot office building, would replace two homes owned by Smith near the intersection of Bourn, Broadway and Stadium Boulevard.
"The house on the corner right now is an eyesore," Smith said. "That corner is a gateway to our city for people coming in from the west, and I want to put something classy there with a fountain or a water effect."
Smith voluntarily held a neighborhood meeting in May to tell residents about the development and address their questions. He said he intends to relocate his law offices to the proposed structure and then rent out the rest of the building to other professionals such as physicians, architects or engineers.
"I want to be a good neighbor and blend into the neighborhood rather than be a hindrance or a nuisance," Smith said. "This would be a professional office building that would not generate a lot of traffic."
Another project of concern for the neighborhood is the proposed widening of Stadium Boulevard that could bring increased traffic noise to the area along with raised medians that would restrict traffic onto and off of Broadway.
MacIntyre said the combination of the two projects is the real problem. The median, he said, would make it difficult to access the office building except by funneling traffic down Bourn.
"There would be absolutely no direct access to the business from Stadium or Broadway," MacIntyre said. "We already have trouble with people speeding up and down our street, and there are families with young children in the neighborhood."
Jenn Sonnenberg, secretary of the neighborhood association, said she has to watch carefully when her children, Hayden, 7, and Lainey, 4, play in the front yard.
"People fly through here, even when they're heading to the school to pick up their own kids," Sonnenberg said. "It always worries me when my kids are out there."
The association has responded to those worries by circulating a petition asking the city to install speed humps, a larger version of speed bumps, to force drivers to slow down.
Residents also expressed interest in capping the north end of Bourn at Broadway to form a cul-de-sac.
No matter what action the City Council eventually takes regarding the proposed projects, MacIntyre said the fact that Smith, as a developer, is willing to work with the neighborhood is a positive sign.
"The proof is in the pudding," MacIntyre said. "It will come down to the details of the proposal to determine what impact this might have on our community."