Elements of Urbanism: Columbus,GA

January 21, 2010 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to the downtown of Georgia's first consolidated city: Columbus.

Columbus Population 2008: 186,984 (City); 287,653 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1828)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,313,228 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Columbus (79,611)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2008)

Columbus: +2.09%
Jacksonville: +16.97%


Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Columbus: 242,324 (ranked 129 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Columbus: 1,779.8
Jacksonville: 2,149.2


City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Columbus: +1,203
Jacksonville: +72,312


Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Columbus: Columbus, GA Convention & Trade Center (1977) - 54,982 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Adjacent to Convention Center:

Columbus: Columbus Marriott (177 units)
Jacksonville: N/A


Tallest Building:

Columbus: AFLAC Tower - 246 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Columbus: AFLAC (152)
Jacksonville: CSX (240), Winn-Dixie (340)


Urban infill obstacles:

Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Columbus: Broadway Avenue
Jacksonville: East Bay Street & vicinity


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Columbus: 97 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Downtown Columbus, GA as keyword)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

City Land Area

Columbus: 216.1 square miles
Jacksonville: 767 square miles

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Columbus' limits (highlighted in orange).

About Downtown Columbus

Downtown Columbus in Columbus, Georgia, United States is the central business district of the city, and is the home of most of the largest buildings in Columbus. It is considered by some to be the area bounded on the north by Talbotton Road; on the South by 30th Avenue; on the West by Front Avenue the Chattahoochee River; and on the East by Brown Avenue. The commercial and governmental heart of the city has traditionally been toward the eastern end of Downtown Columbus, between 10th Street and 1st Avenue. Recent developments, particularly between Broadway and 2nd Avenue, have expanded the boundaries of the "central" part of the neighborhood. The term "Downtown Columbus" can also mean this smaller, more commercial area, particularly when used in the context of the city's nightlife and restaurants. South of Broadway is a much more residential area, characterized by historic homes, new infill construction, and some public housing. This part of Downtown Columbus has the highest concentration of hotels, particularly along Front Avenue, and the Broadway commercial corridor is the center of business.

The W 13th St bridge connects downtown Columbus with Phenix City, AL.

Broadway Avenue

Broadway Avenue served as downtown Columbus' main commercial corridor.  Today, the city has worked to convert this historic commercial strip into the Uptown Columbus Arts & Entertainment District.

RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

Located one block from the Columbus Consolidated Government Center, the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts opened in 2002 and has held host to famous musicians, dancers, actors, comedians, and entertainers from around the world. Notable performances include Bill Cosby, Stomp, Miss Saigon, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blast!, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, The Moscow Boys Choir, David Copperfield, Jessye Norman, Chick Corea and Bela Fleck.

[/quote]The center first opened in 2002 with the completion of Studio Theatre, a flexible black-box style experimental theatre that seats a maximum of 250 people. Other halls in the 240,000 ft (22,300 m) facility include Legacy Hall, a 450-seat concert hall with flexible acoustics and a magnificent, $1,000,000 Jordan concert organ adorning the center of the second tier. The stage includes room for up to 60 orchestral musicians and 80 choral singers. The largest hall, Bill Heard Theatre, is a 2,200-seat three-level theatre. An orchestra pit and 100-foot (30 m)-wide stage are accented by enormous weaving ribbons of colored metal mesh that sweep across the theatre. Other spaces include an outdoor concert hall and rehearsal rooms in the Schwob School of Music. The Schwob School is a department of Columbus State University.[/quote]

Columbus Consolidated Government Center

The Columbus Consolidated Government Center is the seat of the government for the City of Columbus. This building is where the Muscogee County Board of Commissioners meet as well as many of the county departments. The Government Center is located in the area that is bounded by 9th Street to the south, 2nd Avenue to the east, 10 Street to the north, and 1st Avenue to the west.

The historic Ralston Tower

Unique Columbus

- Founded in 1828 by an act of the Georgia Legislature, Columbus was situated at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River and on the last stretch of the Federal Road before entering Alabama.

- The city was named for Christopher Columbus, its founders likely influenced by the writings of Washington Irving. The plan for the city was drawn up by Dr. Edwin L. DeGraffenried who placed the town on a bluff overlooking the river. Across the river, where Phenix City, Alabama is now located, Creek Indians lived until their removal in 1836.

- By 1860, the city was one of the more important industrial centers of the South, earning it the nickname "the Lowell of the South," in deference to the industrial town in Massachusetts.

- The city would consolidate city and county governments in 1971 and become the first of its kind in Georgia (and one of only 16 in the U.S. at the time).

- As the city has turned from its initial industry of textiles, it has provided a home for other prominent industries including the headquarters for Aflac, Synovus, TSYS and Carmike Cinemas.

Columbus Historic Riverfront Industrial District

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978, the industrial district lines the Chattahoochee River from 8th Street North to 38th Street.  Today, the district features lofts, offices, a convention center, a college campus and tourist information center in a mix of new infill and preserved historic industrial buildings, giving downtown's waterfront a unique feel.

The Chattahoochee RiverWalk is an outdoor 15-mile linear park that hugs the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

For centuries, the Chattahoochee River has flowed from the mountains of North Georgia to the oyster beds of the Florida Panhandle. Sometimes a trickle. Sometimes angrily slapping against the rocks. Always telling a story of the history of Georgia and of Columbus. The relationship between Columbus and the Chattahoochee predates written history. Spanish explorers told about the falls nearby. The Indians nation's most extensive trading center was here. Then, in 1828, state legislation set aside 1,200 acres for the town that became Columbus. Steam boats soon were unloading cotton and other products at her busy pier. Romantic ballads were written by passengers who sailed on her lazy paddle-wheelers. Commerce depended on the river with the arrival of the railroad and other means of transportation. More recently, the Chattahoochee became a Mecca for recreation. Lakes created from its lineup of dams attract fishermen from around the world and on weekends the water is filled with boats and skiers. So it was natural for Columbus to come back to the river in 1992. Four years later, that first stretch of riverfront trail was extended to the main post of Fort Benning, giving those who travel on two feet or two wheels a blend of cityscapes and untouched wildlife. The RiverWalk now extends through the campus of TSYS and into the cotton mill town of Bibb City.

Synovus Centre is an office building in Downtown Columbus, Georgia which serves as the headquarters of regional banking and financial services company Synovus. It was built at a cost of 18 million dollars in 2003 and has beautiful views of the Chattahoochee River. The building is a condominium and contains 120,000 square feet (11,000 m), and 5 floors. Synovus occupies the 5th floor, half of the 4th floor and the 2nd floor and parts of the 1st floor. The 3rd floor of the building is owned by Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, P.C., the largest law firm in Columbus, Georgia. A portion of the 4th floor of the building is leased to another local law firm, Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick & Morrison, LLP.

Columbus State University

The university was first called Columbus College when it opened as a junior college in a hosiery mill in 1958. The college was staffed by fifteen faculty and staff and almost three hundred students attended courses in the first year.

Columbus College relocated to the midtown area in 1963, building a campus defined by modern architecture on what was previously a dairy farm. The school was granted four-year status in 1965 with offerings of bachelor's and master's degrees. The first four-year class graduated in 1970.

In 1996 the school was renamed Columbus State University as part of a program to restructure four-year institutions within the state's university system. The school now offers undergraduate and graduate programs in more than ninety academic disciplines. As of the 2007 academic year, the university enrolled more than 7,500 students. In early 2007, the art and theatre departments moved to the university's newly built RiverPark Campus in downtown Columbus. The complex was designed to provide students of the fine arts with a tightly-knit living community and larger studios, laboratories, and galleries. The Schwob School of Music is housed in the adjacent RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

The Downtown RiverPark campus, located near the banks of the Chattahoochee River, provides a much-needed expansion for the university's fine arts programs. The Schwob School of Music is contained in the south wing of the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, while the art and theater departments reside in the Corn Center for the Visual Arts, the Yancey Center, and the Rankin Arts Center. The university is continuing to expand this campus with the acquisition of older buildings, some of which have been remodeled as student housing and additional classrooms.

Columbus Georgia Convention and Trade Center

The Columbus Georgia Convention and Trade Center is located in the Historic Columbus Iron Works. Painstakingly restored to its Civil War splendor, the Iron Works is a unique setting for your next meeting or conference. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the Trade Center is a local landmark of the downtown area and is located conveniently to first-class sleeping accommodations, restaurants and entertainment facilities.

In 1975, the city of Columbus decided to convert the southern portion of the Columbus Iron Works into a Convention and Trade Center. The importance of the site had already been recognized in 1969 by its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1978, as part of the Columbus Historic Riverfront Industrial District (which also includes Bibb City, Muscogee, Eagle & Phenix Mills), the Columbus Iron Works was declared a National Historic Landmark. The transformation of the building, with Rozier Dedwylder as the architect, began in 1977 with funds provided by a local beverage tax and federal grants. The $8 million cost was probably $4 million less than a new building with the same space. This revitalized structure will serve as a model for future adaptive use projects. A completely unique, yet modern facility has been created by skillfully preserving and enhancing the historic fabric of the old Iron Works. A national leader within the historic preservation movement toured the Convention and Trade Center before it opened and proclaimed it to be the “most exciting urban preservation project underway right now in the entire country.” As the former Columbus Iron Works was essential to the economy of Columbus in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so now The Columbus Georgia Convention and Trade Center is playing a crucial role in revitalizing downtown Columbus.

The Columbus Marriott is located across the street from the Convention and Trade Center.

If the walls could talk..the Historic Columbus Marriott's walls could tell a colorful history. The 177-room hotel is built around a restored cotton mill that began operations in 1861. The original brick was refurbished and converted into Columbus' convention hotel being directly across from the Trade Center. Now a national landmark the hotel houses 2 two-story suites with loft bedrooms, 5 meeting rooms, the Grist Mill Coffee Shop and Houlihan's restaurant.

Article by Ennis Davis