Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 116,278 according to the 2000 census (2007 population estimates put the city at 124,818). Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a small portion of the city extends into Lexington County. The city is the center of a steadily growing metro area of 716,030. The city's name comes from a poetic synonym for America, derived from the name of Christopher Columbus.
Located just northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state. As such it is centrally located to the rest of the state. Founded in 1786 as the site of South Carolina's new capital city, it was one of the first planned cities in the United States. The area is often cited for its high quality of life offerings, with its many cultural amenities, parks, and recreational features. At the confluence of two major rivers, Columbia is one of the best destinations in the country for kayak and canoe enthusiasts. It is also known for its large number of independent theater groups. Columbia was recently one of 30 communities named "America's Most Livable Communities." The award was given by the Washington-based non-profit Partners for Livable Communities and honors communities that are developing themselves in the creative economy. Columbia has also been named a top midsized market for relocating families in the nation. Increasingly, Columbia is becoming recognized as an ideal city for retirees. Where to Retire magazine listed Columbia as one of its 25 best choices for retirement as a "budget town" in its January/February 2007 edition . A RetireHomeSmart.com survey of retirement cities lists Columbia as America's second best retirement city.
Like many other significant early settlements in colonial America, Columbia is on the fall line from the Appalachian Mountains. The fall line is the spot where rivers usually become unnavigable when sailing upstream, and is also the spot farthest downstream where falling water can usefully power a mill.
State Senator John Lewis Gervais of Ninety Six introduced a bill that was approved by the legislature on March 22, 1786 to create a new state capital. There was considerable argument over the name for the new city. According to published accounts, Senator Gervais said he hoped that "in this town we should find refuge under the wings of COLUMBIA," for that was the name which he wished it to be called. One legislator insisted on the name Washington, but Columbia won out by a vote of 11-7 in the state senate.
The site was chosen as the new state capital in 1786, due to its central location in the state. The State Legislature first met there in 1790. After remaining under the direct government of the legislature for the first two decades of its existence, Columbia was incorporated as a village in 1805 and then as a city in 1854.
Columbia received a large stimulus to development when it was connected in a direct water route to Charleston, by the Santee Canal. This canal connected the Santee and Cooper Rivers in a section. It was first chartered in 1786 and completed in 1800, making it one of the earliest canals in the United States. With increased railroad traffic, it ceased operation around 1850.
The commissioners designed a town of 400 blocks in a two-mile (3 km) square along the river. The blocks were divided into half-acre lots and sold to speculators and prospective residents. Buyers had to build a house at least long and wide within three years or face an annual 5% penalty. The perimeter streets and two through streets were wide. The remaining squares were divided by thoroughfares wide. The width was determined by the belief that dangerous and pesky mosquitoes could not fly more than without dying of starvation along the way. Columbians still enjoy most of the magnificent network of wide streets.
The commissioners comprised the local government until 1797 when a Commission of Streets and Markets was created by the General Assembly. Three main issues occupied most of their time: public drunkenness, gambling, and poor sanitation.
As one of the first planned cities in the United States, Columbia began to grow rapidly. Its population was nearing 1,000 shortly after the turn of the century.
In 1801, South Carolina College (now known as the University of South Carolina) was founded in Columbia. The city was chosen as the site of the institution in part to unite the state's citizens in the upcountry and the lowcountry. Also, the leaders of South Carolina wished to personally monitor the progress and development of the school. For many years after its founding, commencement exercises were held in December while the state legislature was in session.
Columbia received its first charter as a town in 1805. An intendant and six wardens would govern the town. John Taylor was the first elected intendant. He later served in both houses of the General Assembly, both houses of Congress and eventually as governor of the state. By 1816, there were 250 homes in the town and a population over 1,000.
Columbia became chartered as a city in 1854, with an elected mayor and six aldermen. Two years later, they had a police force consisting of a full-time chief and nine patrolmen. The city continued to grow at a rapid pace, as throughout the 1850s and 1860s Columbia was the largest inland city in the Carolinas. Railroad transportation served as a significant cause of population expansion in Columbia during this time. Rail lines that reached the city in the 1840s were first and foremost interested in transporting cotton bales, not passengers. Cotton was the lifeblood of the Columbia community, as in 1850, directly or indirectly, virtually all of the city's commercial and economic activity was related to cotton.
Columbia's First Baptist Church hosted the South Carolina Secession Convention on December 17, 1860. The delegates drafted a resolution in favor of secession without dissent, 159-0. Columbia's location made it an ideal location for other conventions and meetings within the Confederacy. During the Civil War, bankers, railroad executives, teachers, and theologians from several states met in the city from time to time to discuss certain matters.
On February 17, 1865, during the Civil War, much of Columbia was destroyed by fire while being occupied by Union troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Legend has it, Columbia's First Baptist Church missed by a hair from being torched by Sherman's troops. As the story goes, the soldiers marched up to the church and asked the grounds keeper if he could direct them to the location of the church where the declaration of secession was signed. The loyal grounds keeper directed the men to another church, a Methodist church, located nearby; thus, the historic landmark avoided being destroyed by Union soldiers.
Controversy surrounding the burning of the city started soon after the war ended. General Sherman blamed the high winds and retreating Confederate soldiers for firing bales of cotton, which had been stacked in the streets. General Sherman denied ordering the burning, though he did order militarily significant structures, such as the Confederate Printing Plant, destroyed. Firsthand accounts by local residents, Union soldiers, and a newspaper reporter offer a tale of revenge by Union troops for Columbia's and South Carolina's pivotal role in leading Southern states to secede from the Union, whereas other accounts (as documented in, for example, James W. Loewen's Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong) portray it as mostly the fault of the Confederacy. Today, tourists can follow the path General Sherman's army took to enter the city and see structures or remnants of structures that survived the fire.
During Reconstruction, Columbia became the focus of considerable attention. Reporters, journalists, travelers, and tourists flocked to South Carolina's capital city to witness a Southern state legislature whose members included ex-slaves. The city also made somewhat of a rebound following the devastating fire of 1865; a mild construction boom took place within the first few years of Reconstruction, and repair of railroad tracks in outlying areas created jobs for area citizens.
Columbia had no paved streets until 1908, when 17 blocks of Main Street were surfaced. There were, however, 115 publicly maintained street crossings at intersections to keep pedestrians from having to wade through a sea of mud between wooden sidewalks. As an experiment, Washington Street was once paved with wooden blocks. This proved to be the source of much local amusement when they buckled and floated away during heavy rains. The blocks were replaced with asphalt paving in 1925.
The years 1911-1912 were something of a construction boom for Columbia, with $2.5 million worth of construction occurring in the city. These projects included the Union Bank Building at Main and Gervais, the Palmetto National Bank, a shopping arcade, and large hotels at Main and Laurel (the Jefferson) and at Main and Wheat (the Gresham).
In 1917, the city was selected as the site of Camp Jackson, a U.S. military installation which was officially classified as a "Field Artillery Replacement Depot." The first recruits arrived at the camp on September 1, 1917.
In 1930, Columbia was the hub of a trading area with approximately 500,000 potential customers. It had 803 retail establishments, 280 of them being food stores. There were also 58 clothing and apparel outlets, 57 restaurants and lunch rooms, 55 filling stations, 38 pharmacies, 20 furniture stores, 19 auto dealers, 11 shoe stores, nine cigar stands, five department stores, and one book store. Wholesale distributors located within the city numbered 119, with one-third of them dealing in food.
In 1934, the federal courthouse at the corner of Main and Laurel streets was purchased by the city for use as City Hall. Built of granite from nearby Winnsboro, Columbia City Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Alfred Bult Millet, President Ulysses S. Grant's Federal architect, the building was completed in 1876. Millet, best known for his design of the Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., had originally designed the building with a clock tower. Large cost overruns probably caused it to be left out. Copies of Mullet's original drawings can be seen on the walls of City Hall alongside historic photos of Columbia's beginnings.
Reactivated Camp Jackson became Fort Jackson in 1940, giving the military installation the permanence desired by city leaders at the time. The fort was annexed into the city in the fall of 1968, with approval from the Pentagon.
In the early 1940s, shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor which began America's involvement in World War II, Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and his group of now-famous pilots began training for the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo at what is now Columbia Metropolitan Airport. They trained in B-25 Mitchell bombers, the same model as the plane that now rests at Columbia's Owens Field in the Curtiss-Wright hangar.
The 1940s saw the beginning of efforts to reverse Jim Crow laws and racial discrimination in Columbia. In 1945, a federal judge ruled that the city's black teachers were entitled to equal pay to that of their white counterparts. However, in years following, the state attempted to strip many blacks of their teaching credentials. Other issues in which the blacks of the city sought equality concerned voting rights and segregation (particularly regarding public schools). On August 21, 1962, eight downtown chain stores served blacks at their lunch counters for the first time. The University of South Carolina admitted its first black students in 1963; around the same time, many vestiges of segregation began to disappear from the city, blacks attained membership on various municipal boards and commissions, and a non-discriminatory hiring policy was adopted by the city. These and other such signs of racial progression helped earn the city the 1964 All-America City Award for the second time (the first being in 1951) and a 1965 article in Newsweek magazine lauded Columbia as a city that had "liberated itself from the plague of doctrinal apartheid."
The area's population continued to grow during the 1950s, having experienced a 40% increase from 186,844 to 260,828, with 97,433 people residing within the city limits of Columbia.
Historic preservation has played a significant part into shaping Columbia into the city that it is today. The historic Robert Mills House was restored in 1967, which inspired the renovation and restoration of other historic structures such as the Hampton-Preston House and homes associated with President Woodrow Wilson, Maxcy Gregg, Mary Boykin Chestnut, and noted free black Celia Mann. In the early 1970s, the University of South Carolina initiated the refurbishment of its "Horseshoe." Several area museums also benefited from the increased historical interest of that time, among them the Fort Jackson Museum, the McKissick Museum on the campus of the University of South Carolina, and most notably the South Carolina State Museum, which opened in 1988.
Mayor Kirkman Finlay, Jr. was the driving force behind the refurbishment of Seaboard Park, now known as Finlay Park, in the historic Congaree Vista district, as well as the compilation of the $60 million Palmetto Center package, which gave Columbia a distinctive office tower, parking garage, and the Columbia Marriott which opened in 1983.
The year 1980 saw the Columbia metropolitan population reach 410,088 and in 1990 this figure had hit approximately 470,000. The city continues to focus on improving the great quality of life of its citizens and further diversifying the local economy, which will continue to bring growth and vitality for many years to come.
The 1990s and early 2000s also saw revitalization in the downtown area. The Congaree Vista district along Gervais Street, once known as a warehouse district, became a thriving district of art galleries, shops, and restaurants. The Colonial Life Arena (formerly known as the Carolina Center) opened in 2002, and brought several big-named concerts and shows to Columbia. The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center opened in 2004, and a new convention center hotel opened in September 2007. Several residential developments are also in the works for the Vista.
Some have suggested the redevelopment efforts by the city have not been universally well received and have not brought the numbers of people back downtown as expected; however, in recent years, thanks to aggressive renovation and construction efforts by the private sector, increasing numbers are moving downtown. Several notable historic downtown Columbia buildings have been converted into apartments and condos, while other downtown offerings are housed in entirely new buildings.
Columbia is located at 34°1'1" North, 81°0'38" West (34.017105, -81.010759) 1. Autumn, winter and spring are mild, with occasional winter nights below freezing but rarely extended cold. The city is at its most beautiful in the spring when masses of azaleas and other spring flowers bloom. Columbia's summers can be very hot, being primarily recognized for their extreme humidity. The city, like other cities of the southeast, is prone to Inversions, which trap ozone and other pollutants over the area. One of Columbia's most interesting geographical features is its fall line, which is a boundary between an upland region and a coastal plain across which rivers from the upland region drop to the plain as falls or rapids. Columbia grew up at the fall line of the Congaree River, which is formed by the convergence of the Broad River and the Saluda River. The Congaree was the farthest inland point of river navigation. The energy of falling water also powered Columbia's early mills. The city has capitalized on this scenic location which includes three rivers by recently christening itself "The Columbia Riverbanks Region."
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 127.7 square miles (330.8 km²), of which, 125.2 square miles (324.3 km²) of it is land and 2.5 square miles (6.4 km²) of it is water. The total area is 1.95% water.
In Census 2000, the population for the then two-county metropolitan area (Richland and Lexington) was 536,691, of which about 78% was within the Columbia urbanized area proper (2000 pop.: 420,537). In June 2003, the United States Census Bureau added four more counties — Fairfield, Calhoun, Kershaw, and Saluda — to Columbia's standard metropolitan statistical area, giving its total population a significant boost. It now ranks as the largest in South Carolina.
Columbia's metropolitan counties include:
Columbia's largest suburbs and environs presently are:
Fort Jackson is the US Army's largest training base.
Under command of the South Carolina Air National Guard.
The current mayor of Columbia is Bob Coble. Coble has served as mayor since his election in 1990 .Coble, was elected to his fifth term as mayor on April 4, 2006; and is the city's longest serving mayor. Columbia holds elections for mayor every four years, with the next election in 2010; there are no term limits.
The city council consists of 6 members (4 from districts and 2 at-large). While the city council is responsible for making policies and enacting laws, rules and regulations in order to provide for future community and economic growth. Additionally, the council provides the necessary support for the orderly and efficient operation of city services.
See related article Past mayors of Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia is home to the main campus of the University of South Carolina, which was chartered in 1801 as South Carolina College and in 1906 as the University of South Carolina. The university has 350 degree programs and enrolls more than 27,500 students throughout 15 degree-granting colleges and schools. It is an urban university, located in downtown Columbia. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has designated the university a research institution of "very high research activity". The school also has a world-renowned international business program, ranking No. 1 in the nation for its undergraduate international business program and No. 2 for its graduate international business program in the 2006 U.S. News & World Report college and graduate school guides. University of South Carolina's University 101 program is also frequently cited by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top programs of its kind in the nation. The university is also home to the nation’s first National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.
As part of a new initiative geared towards making University of South Carolina a world-class research and technology school, the university is building Innovista, a unique new "innovation district" located between the campus' core and the banks of the Congaree River. Innovista is a standard-setting environment that draws its vibrancy from integrating public and private sector research and researchers with retail, restaurant, residential, and recreational facilities contained within a contemporary urban landscape.
Columbia is also home to:
Grace Christian School
The Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine (CSA) Health System. The non-profit organization is licensed for 304 beds and comprises four entities: Providence Hospital, Providence Heart Institute, Providence Hospital Northeast and Providence Orthopaedic & NeuroSpine Institute. Providence Hospital, located in downtown Columbia, was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine in 1938. The facility offers cardiac care through Providence Heart Institute, which is considered a quality cardiac center in South Carolina. Providence Hospital Northeast is a 46-bed community hospital established in 1999 that offers a range of medical services in surgery, emergency care, women's and children's services and rehabilitation. Providence Northeast is home to Providence Orthopaedic & NeuroSpine Institute, which provides medical and surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of the bones, joints, and spine.
Palmetto Health is a South Carolina nonprofit public benefit corporation consisting of Palmetto Health Richland and Palmetto Health Baptist hospitals in Columbia. Palmetto Health provides health care for nearly 70% of the residents of Richland County and almost 55% of the health care for both Richland and Lexington counties. Palmetto Health Baptist recently underwent a $40 million multi-phase modernization which included of new construction and of renovations. The extensive health system also operates Palmetto Health Children's Hospital and Palmetto Health Heart Hospital, the state's first freestanding hospital dedicated solely to heart care, which opened in January 2006. The Palmetto Health South Carolina Cancer Center offers patient services at the Palmetto Health Baptist and Palmetto Health Richland campuses; both are recognized by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as a Network Cancer Program.
The Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center is a 216-bed facility, encompassing acute medical, surgical, psychiatric, and long-term care. The hospital provides primary, secondary, and some tertiary care. An affiliation is held with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, located on the hospital grounds. A sharing agreement is in place with Moncrief Army Community Hospital at Fort Jackson and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, SC.
Columbia benefits from an excellent interstate highway system, with three interstates— I-26, I-77, and I-20— forming an outer loop around the city. Other major highways include I-126, U.S. 1, U.S. 21, U.S. 76, U.S. 176, U.S. 321, U.S. 378, and S.C. Highway 277.
Regional bus transportation is provided by the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (CMRTA), which serves the greater Columbia area including Cayce, West Columbia, Forest Acres, Arcadia Lakes, Springdale, and the St. Andrews area. The authority was established in October 2002.
Greyhound Lines operates a station on Gervais Street, in the eastern part of downtown, providing Columbia with intercity bus transportation.
The city of Columbia has recently accomplished a number of redevelopment projects and has several more planned. The historic Congaree Vista, a district running from downtown toward the Congaree river, features a number of historic buildings that have been rehabilitated. Of note is the adaptive reuse of the Confederate Printing Plant on Gervais and Huger, used to print Confederate bills during the American Civil War. The city cooperated with Publix grocery stores to preserve the look, and now Columbia is one of a handful of cities in the Southeast with a full-service market in its downtown. This won Columbia an award from the International Downtown Association. The Vista district is also where a new convention center Hilton and a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse recently debuted. Other notable developments planned include high-end condos and townhomes, hotels, mixed-use structures, and the establishment of a retail corridor along Lady Street.
The older buildings lining the Vista's main drag, Gervais, now house art galleries, restaurants, unique shops, and professional office space. Near the end of Gervais is the South Carolina State Museum, and the Colonial Center adds to the draw as it is just a few blocks away. Private student housing and some residential projects are going up nearby; the CanalSide development at the site of the old Central Correctional Institution, is the most high profile. The development will have 750 residential units and provide access to Columbia's waterfront.
The next few years should see the University of South Carolina's research campus, dubbed "Innovista, stretch from the university across the historic Congaree Vista district on over . The project demolished a piece of the city skyline: the old university visitors center Carolina Plaza, which was 14 stories. In its place the university is building a multi-use second campus which will not only provide space for university-sponsored research, but will rent some out to private residents, private research firms, and a few shops. The university touts the project of an example of its ongoing "private-public" partnership with the city.
Lady Street between Huger and Assembly streets in the Vista and the Five Points neighborhood have undergone beautification projects, which mainly consisted of replacing curbs and gutters, adding brick-paved sidewalks, and angled parking. Special efforts are being aimed at Main Street, which was once the center of the city's activity but remains dormant after retailers and shoppers left for suburban malls. The goal is to re-establish Main Street as a vibrant commercial and residential corridor. The streetscapings, along Main Street and in Five Points in particular, have taken their toll among local businesses located there, some of which were forced to close during the refurbishing -- —and local favorite Sherlock Holmes Pub on Main Street—actually went out of business. In spite of this, a majority of business owners on Main Street believe that the streetscaping represents a positive aspect of the city's evolution. Notable developments under construction along Main Street include a 17-story, $60 million tower at the high-profile corner of Main and Gervais streets, the second phase of the streetscaping project between Hampton and Laurel streets, and the refurbished McCrory building, which will be a mixed-use development including condos, restaurants, and office space. Planned developments include a new sanctuary for the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the relocation of the Nickelodeon theater, and the renovation of the 1441 Main Street office building into Wachovia's new Midlands headquarters.
The Meridian building, a 17-story, $62 million office tower was completed in 2004 and First Citizens bank, which is the second-largest state-based bank, completed a $40 million, , 9-story headquarters tower at the corner of Main and Lady streets in 2006. The historic Palmetto Building, at the corner of Main and Washington streets, underwent renovations and re-opened its doors in July 2007 as a boutique Sheraton Hotel and directly across from it, the historic Republic National Bank Building on Washington Street was turned into meeting and banquet space for the Sheraton. On September 25, 2007, a new fountain and sculpture, located in Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art at the corner of Main and Hampton streets downtown, was dedicated. The tall piece, entitled "Apollo's Cascade," was designed by famed sculptor Rodney Carroll and was commissioned using a leadership gift from the Colliers Keenan Real Estate Firm.
The Historic Columbia Foundation has plans to create a garden district in a historic area of downtown bounded by Calhoun, Taylor, Marion, and Barnwell streets. Under this plan, the 18 blocks that encompass downtown’s five historic homes--Hampton-Preston Mansion, Robert Mills House, Mann-Simons Cottage, Woodrow Wilson Family Home, and Seibels House--would feature landscapes spanning 100 years of gardening, from 1820 to 1920. The project would include interpretive signs, streetscaping, and pedestrian walks intended to appeal tourists and locals alike.
Additionally, the former state mental hospital’s central campus, located on Bull Street, is the last and largest tract of land to come available in urban Columbia in decades. The state of South Carolina has plans to sell the site, a huge opportunity for Columbia. The city's proposal is a hallmark of new urbanism, the architectural movement that focuses on higher-density residential development interspersed with green space, offices and retail. For this future development, 1,200 residential units and over of retail and office space are planned. The new Bull Street neighborhood also would feature a “town center” of stores and shops near its main entrance at Bull Street and Elmwood Avenue. This project is expected to have a rather significant economic impact on the city of Columbia--something unlike the city has seen within the past 50 years, according to the Central Carolina Community Foundation's Bull Street Committee. This committee was formed by request of both city and state government to create a plan for the land use. The Community Foundation held public forums to get the community's feedback as to what would best serve the community. In February 2006, the Community Foundation turned over the completed plan to the city and the State Housing Finance and Development Authority. To view the plan visit bullstreetsc.com
|Name||Stories||Height (in feet)|
|Capital Center||25||348||Palmetto Center||20||325|
|Bank of America Plaza||17||305||Tower at 1301 Gervais||20||278|
Columbia has quite a diversified economy, with the major employers in the area being South Carolina state government, the Palmetto Health hospital system, Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC, Palmetto GBA, and the University of South Carolina. Columbia is also home to the headquarters of SCANA, a Fortune 500 company which supplies energy to parts of the Carolinas and Georgia. Other major employers in the Columbia area include Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army's 2nd largest training installation behind Fort Bragg, Richland School District One, Humana/TriCare, and the United Parcel Service, which operates its Southeastern Regional Hub at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Major manufacturers such as Square D, CMC Steel, Spirax Sarco, Michelin, International Paper, Pirelli Cables, Honeywell, Westinghouse Electric, Harsco Track Tech, Trane, Intertape Polymer Group, Union Switch & Signal, Solectron, and Bose Corporation Technology have facilities in Columbia. The business climate in the Columbia region is a very solid one. There are over 70 foreign affiliated companies and fourteen Fortune 500 companies in the region. Several companies have their global, continental, or national headquarters in Columbia, including Collexis Holdings, Inc., a software development company; Colonial Supplemental Insurance, the second-largest supplemental insurance company in the nation; Holopack International, a German-owned company that provides a wide range of services to the pharmaceutical industry; First Citizens bank, the second largest state-based bank; South Carolina Bank and Trust; Spectrum Medical, an international medical software company; Wilbur Smith Associates, a full-service transportation and infrastructure consulting firm; and Nelson Mullins, a major national law firm.
Many reputable publications and institutes recognize the strength and potential of the city's economy. In Forbes 2008 "Best Places for Business and Careers" list, Columbia ranked 56th overall among the 200 large metropolitan areas ranked. Forbes also named Columbia as one of the nation's top 100 cities for jobs in its 2008 listing Bizjournals ranked Columbia 25th of 105 medium-sized labor markets for young adult job seekers and 15th of 77 metropolitan areas in its "Jewels of the Sunbelt" ranking, which ranks cities according to "blend of comfortable lifestyle and warm weather". Inc.com's 2008 Boomtown rankings, which is based on job-growth data as supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, listed Columbia 19th among midsized metropolitan areas nationwide. Entrepreneur.com, Inc. listed Columbia eighth of 63 midsize metropolitan areas nationwide in its Entrepreneur and NPRC's 2006 Hot Cities for Entrepreneurs rankings. CareerBuilder.com named Columbia as one of the nation's best cities for jobs based on job openings per resident. Expansion Management, a high profile company dedicated to helping companies evaluate future locations, listed Columbia as one of America's 50 hottest cities for corporate expansion and relocation for its 2007 list, a top 20 midsized metro area for business recruitment and attraction, one of America's top business opportunity metros out of 70 metropolitan areas nationwide, as a "Five-Star Knowledge Worker Metro," which reflects the area's highly educated population, and as a "Five-Star Business Opportunity Metro" which is a “Best of the Best” ranking of metro areas that have achieved solid ratings across the board in the company's numerous studies during the past 12 months.. POLICOM, a company that specializes in studying the dynamics of local economies, placed the Columbia metropolitan region in the top 20th percentile among the 361 U.S. Census Bureau-designated metropolitan statistical areas nationwide (and first among metropolitan areas in the state) in its 2008 economic strength rankings
Columbia's economy is set to be revolutionized within the next few years with the establishment of the University of South Carolina's research campus, dubbed Innovista. Spreading out over in the historic Congaree Vista district downtown and combining of research labs, office space, mixed-use retail and affordable residential housing, research will be aimed at the emerging technologies and intellectual clusters—biomedical, environmental, nanotechnology, and future fuels—that companies will find extremely valuable in the global economy. Phase I of the campus is presently under construction. In March 2007, the campus's first major private sector tenant, Duck Creek Technologies, an insurance software and services company, was announced; the company expects to create a minimum of 200 new high-paying jobs with an average salary of $85,000.
As of the census of 2000, there were 116,278 people, 42,245 households, and 22,136 families residing in the city. The population density was 928.6 people per square mile (358.5/km²). There were 46,142 housing units at an average density of 368.5/sq mi (142.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.22% White, 45.98% African American, 1.73% Asian, 0.25% Native American, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 1.36% from other races, and 1.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.03% of the population.
There were 42,245 households out of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.5% were married couples living together, 17.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% were nonfamilies. 37.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 22.9% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 96.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,141, and the median income for a family was $39,589. Males had a median income of $30,925 versus $24,679 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,853. About 17.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.9% ages 65 or older.
The Five Points neighborhood, home to many locally-owned businesses, is known as Columbia's eclectic village shopping area. The Devine Street corridor offers a variety of upscale specialty shopping, including art and antiques, eclectic home furnishings, and men's, women's, and children's clothing. The historic Congaree Vista district downtown provides shoppers with a unique collection of shops filled with antiques, oriental rugs, jewelry, original artwork, hand-made furniture, and collectibles.
This beautiful 18 acre park has had two lives; first dedicated in 1859 as Sidney Park, named in honor of Algernon Sidney Johnson, a Columbia City Councilman, the park experienced an illustrious but short tenure. The park fell into disrepair after the Civil War and served as a site for commercial ventures until the late 1900s. In 1990, the park was reopened and has become a beautiful diamond in the downtown area, offering a green oasis in contrast to the glass, asphalt and concrete in the urban environment. It serves as the site for such events as Kids Day, The Summer Concert Series, plus many more activities. In 1992, the park was renamed Finlay Park, in honor of Kirkman Finlay, a past mayor of Columbia who had a vision to reenergize the historic Congaree Vista district, between Main Street and the river, and recreate the beautiful site that was formerly known as Sidney Park.
Memorial Park is a four-acre tract of land in the Congaree Vista between Main Street and the river. The property is bordered by Hampton, Gadsden, Washington, and Wayne Streets and is one block south of Finlay Park. This park was created to serve as a memorial to those who served their county and presently has monuments honoring the USS Columbia warship and those that served with her during World War II, the China-Burma-India Theater Veterans of WWII, causalities of the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 who were from South Carolina, and the State Vietnam War Veterans. The park was dedicated in November 1986 along with the unveiling of the South Carolina Vietnam Monument. In June 2000, the Korean War Memorial was dedicated at Memorial Park.
Granby Park opened in November 1998 as a gateway to the rivers of Columbia, adding another access to the many river activities available to residents. Granby is part of the Three Rivers Greenway, a system of green spaces along the banks of the rivers in Columbia, adding another piece to the long-range plan and eventually connecting to the existing Riverfront Park. Granby is a 24 acre linear park with canoe access points, fishing spots, bridges and 1/2 mile of nature trail along the banks of the Congaree River.
In the Five Points district of downtown Columbia is the park dedicated to the legacy and memory of the most celebrated civil rights leader in America, Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Formerly known as Valley Park, it was historically known to be largely restricted to Whites. Renaming the park after Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 1980s was seen as a progressive and unifying event on behalf of the city, civic groups, and local citizens. The park features a beautiful water sculpture and a community center. An integral element of the park is the Stone of Hope monument, unveiled in January 1996. Upon the monument is inscribed a portion of King's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued that self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solutions of the problems of the world."
One of Columbia's greatest assets is Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Riverbanks Zoo is a sanctuary for more than 2,000 animals housed in natural habitat exhibits along the Saluda River. Just across the river, the 70 acre botanical garden is devoted to gardens, woodlands, plant collections, and historic ruins. Riverbanks has been named one of America's top 10 zoos and the #1 travel attraction in the Southeast.
Situated along the meandering Congaree River in central South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to champion trees, primeval forest landscapes, and diverse plant and animal life. This park protects the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. The park is an international biosphere reserve. Known for its giant hardwoods and towering pines, the park’s floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world and some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. Congaree National Park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a place to walk and relax in a tranquil wilderness setting.
Sesquicentennial State Park is a park, featuring a beautiful 30 acre lake surrounded by trails and picnic areas. The park's proximity to downtown Columbia and three major interstate highways attracts both local residents and travelers. Sesquicentennial is often the site of family reunions and group campouts. Interpretive nature programs is a major attraction to the park. The park also contains a two-story log house, dating back to the mid 1700s, which was relocated to the park in 1969. This house is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Richland County. The park was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Evidence of their craftsmanship is still present today.
In November 1996, the River Alliance proposed that a linear park system be created to link people to their rivers. This was named the Three Rivers Greenway, and the $18 million estimated cost was agreed to by member governments (the cities of Cayce, Columbia, and West Columbia) with the proviso that the Alliance recommend an acceptable funding strategy.
While the funding process was underway, an existing city of Columbia site located on the Congaree River offered an opportunity to be a pilot project for the Three Rivers Greenway. The Alliance was asked to design and permit for construction by a general contractor this component. This approximately one-half mile segment of the system was opened in November 1998. It is complete with wide concrete pathways, vandal-proof lighting, trash receptacles, water fountains, picnic benches, overlooks, bank fishing access, canoe/kayak access, a public restroom and parking. These set the standards for the common elements in the rest of the system. Eventually, pathways will run from Granby to the Riverbanks Zoo. Boaters, sportsmen, fishermen will have access to the area, and additional recreational uses are being planned along the miles of riverfront.
Running beside the historic Columbia Canal, Riverfront Park hosts a two and a half mile trail. Spanning the canal is an old railway bridge that now is a pedestrian walkway. The park is popular for walking, running, bicycling, and fishing. Picnic tables and benches dot the walking trail. Markers are located along the trail so that visitors can measure distance. The park is part of the Palmetto Trail, a hiking and biking trail that stretches the entire length of the state, from Greenville to Charleston.
Other parks in the Columbia area include:
and a host of others.
Club Sport Founded League Venue
Colonial Life Arena, which opened in 2002, is South Carolina's premiere arena and entertainment facility. Seating 18,000 for college basketball, it is the largest arena in the state of South Carolina and the tenth largest on-campus basketball facility in the nation, serving as the home of the men's and women's USC Gamecocks basketball teams and the Columbia Stingers arena football team. Located on the University of South Carolina campus, this one-of-a-kind facility features 41 suites, four entertainment suites, and the Frank McGuire Club, a full-service hospitality room that will have a capacity of 300. The state-of-the-art facility also features plush seating, a technologically advanced sound system, and a four-sided video scoreboard.
The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, which opened in September 2004 as South Carolina's only downtown convention center, is a , modern, state-of-the-art facility designed to host a variety of meetings and conventions. Located in the historic Congaree Vista district, this facility is close to restaurants, antique and specialty shops, art galleries, and a vibrant nightlife. The main exhibit hall contains almost of space; the Columbia Ballroom over ; and the five meeting rooms ranging in size from 1500 to add another of space. The facility is located next to the Colonial Life Arena.
Williams-Brice Stadium is the home of the USC Gamecocks' football team and is one of the largest college football stadiums in the nation. It seats 80,250 persons and is located just south of downtown Columbia. The stadium was built in 1934 with help of federal Works Progress Administration funds and initially seated 17,600. The original name was Carolina Stadium, but on September 9, 1972 it was renamed to honor the Williams and Brice families. Mrs. Martha Williams-Brice had left much of her estate to the University for stadium renovations and expansions. Her late husband, Thomas H. Brice, played football for the University from 1922 to 1924.
The Koger Center for the Arts provides Columbia with theatre, music and dance performances from around the world. The facility seats 2,500 persons. The center is named for philanthropists Ira and Nancy Koger, who made a substantial donation from personal and corporate funds for construction of the $15 million center. The first performance at the Koger Center was given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and took place on Saturday, January 14, 1989. The facility is known for hosting diverse events, from The State of the State Address to the South Carolina Body Building Championship and the South Carolina Science Fair.
The Carolina Coliseum, which opened in 1968, used to be a 12,400-seat facility which initially served as the home of the USC Gamecocks' basketball teams. The arena could be easily adapted to serve other entertainment purposes, including concerts, car shows, circuses, ice shows, and other popular events. The versatility and quality of the Coliseum at one time allowed the University to use the facility for performing arts events such as the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony, Feld Ballet and other performances by important artists. An acoustical shell and a state-of-the-art lighting system assisted the Coliseum in presenting such activities. The Coliseum was the home of the Columbia Inferno, an ECHL team. However, since the construction of the Colonial Life Arena in 2002, the Coliseum is no longer used for basketball and has been converted into classroom space and now serves as the home to the School of Journalism as well as the School for Hospitality, Retail and Tourism Management.
The Township Auditorium seats 3,200 persons and is located in downtown Columbia. The Georgian Revival building was designed by the Columbia architectural firm of Lafaye and Lafaye and constructed in 1930. The Township has hosted thousands of events from concerts to conventions to wrestling matches. The auditorium was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 2005.
Sarge Frye Field is the home field of the USC Gamecocks' baseball teams, named after a long-time groundskeeper of the college. Due to be replaced in the 2009 Baseball season.