The sun is setting earlier every day in Columbia, but downtown, things are just getting brighter. The Columbia Special Business District, along with the city of Columbia, is putting the finishing touches on the lighting plans outlined in its downtown beautification project.
On Ninth Street, new streetlights are being installed this week as part of a district-wide change out. Additional streetlights are being installed to increase lighting in the area, and existing lamps are undergoing a transformation to create a new, more unified look. All the streetlight poles will be black, and about half of them will have a decorative light fixture attached. The streetlight project is part of phases one and two of the Special Business District plan.
The Special Business District portion of the bill for the lighting project is $208,131. That includes the light fixtures on streets with high foot traffic. The money comes from the business license and property tax fees that are built into properties and businesses in the assessment district. Carrie Gartner, director of the Special Business District, said it is important to know where the money for the improvements comes from.
“We can do special things in the District because we are paying for it by choosing to tax ourselves,” Gartner said. “The city does the same for us as for any other area, but we pay over and above that so we can have improvements.”
The city of Columbia is funding the installation of the fixtures and the painting. The city had previously budgeted approximately $40,000 for the painting. About half of the streetlamps were recently installed and only needed to be painted. The remaining streetlamps were old and needed to be replaced.
Columbia’s Water and Light Department hopes to have the new poles in place by the end of September. However, many crews were pulled away from the work to deal with downed power lines from recent thunderstorms, so the project may be slightly delayed. The Special Business District hopes to have all the light fixtures installed by the end of the 2005 fiscal year.
At Calhoun’s Accent Furnishings and Accessories on Broadway, owners are responding positively to the improvements, even though they may not be directly affected.
“Will we see a direct result to our business from the streetlights? No,” said Lisa Klenke, co-owner. “Would we see a negative result if nothing was done? Yes.”
Downtown businesses are also seeing improvements along Fifth Street, where the city is removing the wood telephone poles and putting all power lines underground. Fifth Street is one of the last streets in the area to have aboveground power lines.
The corner of Fifth and Cherry streets is being improved for pedestrian and wheelchair use with grant money from Community Development Block grants. Gartner said it’s time for that intersection to be improved.
“Cherry Street is an important street, and that intersection was pretty tough,” Gartner said. “It will be nice to make it more pedestrian-friendly.”