The bright-orange banners hanging from light poles on Elm Street are hard to miss.
The banners, which read “Shop, Eat, Live, Play,” are the middle phase of a five-phase downtown beautification program and part of the Special Business District’s “Discover the District” campaign.
Other phases of the District’s beautification program include new streetlights and benches.
The banners, which will also be installed on Cherry Street, replace banners that previously hung on Ninth Street, said Carrie Gartner, director of the Columbia Special Business District.
“We’re taking them off Ninth Street because no one saw them,” she said. “They blended in with the trees.”
Elm Street was chosen to draw people who are driving into campus, along Providence or to the Visitors Bureau into the downtown area, Gartner said. Cherry Street — where the banners will be blue — was a good choice because it runs the full length of the District.
“The banners are intended to serve as a marketing tool of sorts,” said Skip Walther, chairman of the Columbia Special Business District board.
“The idea is to let people know that there is a lot more going on than people assume,” Gartner said. “We’re a lot bigger and more vital than people think.”
“I hear people say, ‘Well, downtown is really only four or five blocks,’ but we’re actually 43 blocks, including 70 bars and restaurants and 110 shops,” she said.
The banners “are intended to promote retail as an aspect of downtown,” Walther said. “They’re supposed to blend in with the cityscape.”
But not blend too much, as to repeat the previous mistake with the green banners that hung on Ninth Street for a decade.
“The banners were appealing to us because the banners are very bold,” Gartner said. “We liked the colors.”
The banners were designed by Vangel Associates of Columbia. The new banners will be switched out for other banners that celebrate occasions such as the Festival of the Arts, Memorial Day and the Christmas holiday season.