Richland County Council recently voted unanimously to proceed with a scaled-down version of the Richland Renaissance project, setting its focus on three priority areas: a facilities plan for government operations, an effort to enhance services in Southeast Richland and a Countywide revitalization and blight remediation strategy.
Council’s new direction for Richland Renaissance calls for giving residents a more collective voice in offering perspective as the project takes shape. Creating a resident-based committee adds a new layer of public engagement to measures previously implemented to obtain public input on the project.
“I am excited about the renewed opportunity to allow for more robust public involvement to help shape the process,” Council Chair Paul Livingston, District 4, said.
Members of Council noted the project reflects the work of dedicated employees who collaborated more than two years to present Council and the public with concepts of what the Capital County can and should be now and for generations to come.
Richland Renaissance is envisioned as a comprehensive public-private endeavor to build strong neighborhoods, make government services more accessible to residents and create an environment to spur economic opportunities and improve livability throughout the County.
“Now, we can really get started on moving Richland County forward,” said Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, District 2, who recommended Council revisit the project, which was put on hold in May 2018. At the Council retreat in January, County staff presented a new plan to get the project back on track.
On Feb. 19, Council directed County staff to formulate a revised plan that includes an updated budget and financing options for the three priority areas, as well as an effort to better engage residents, businesses and other stakeholders.
“With the full support of Council, I’m pretty confident staff can show the public just how beneficial this project will be to improving the County as whole and the services we provide,” said Interim Administrator Ed Gomeau.
The revised Renaissance project is comprised of three components:
- County Facilities: Staff will, with public input, provide an updated plan for how best to use the Columbia Place Mall, the former Havertys and Old Antique Mall properties, and provide options for the future of the Judicial Center and the current Administration Building at 2020 Hampton St. No final decision has been made on where County and state agency offices will be located.
- Southeast Richland Centers: The plan for the area includes opening a County services outpost and establishing a public-private partnership to bring a much-needed critical care medical facility to this part of the County. In addition, a plan to highlight the County’s history will be developed. While the term “historic trail” has been used, there is no final determination as to whether this component will be a physical asset.
- Revivify Richland: A revitalization strategy to improve the County’s livability and appearance through a comprehensive blight remediation plan, the installation of gateway signage and beautification efforts.
“I’m looking forward to the prospect of meeting with the public even more than we have and developing final concepts and designs in partnership with the business community,” said Council Vice Chair Dalhi Myers, who represents District 10, which includes a large portion of the Southeast, or Lower Richland, area of the County. “Realizing a project of this magnitude, lots of which relies on public-private partnerships for its efficacy, will require all hands on deck.”
Efforts to inform and involve the public in the original Renaissance project included community meetings, where residents could offer oral and written feedback, and a regularly updated portal on the County website. In addition, several constituent groups and residents provided input on individual elements of the project before Renaissance was announced in December 2017.
The relaunched project is expected to have a new feature – a resident-based committee to offer feedback to County officials. The Blue Ribbon Committee for the County’s flood recovery efforts proved successful in ensuring public input on that project and County officials expect the Renaissance committee will be just as helpful. Details on how members for the Renaissance panel will be selected, how the panel will be structured and the number of people it will have are being determined.
At the Council meeting on Feb. 19, Dickerson – an ardent supporter of Richland Renaissance – didn’t say much during the discussion about the project, but addressed the rest of Council after the vote.
“I want to thank my colleagues for this,” she said. “This is so important.”