From the viaduct at TSYS to the four-lane highway around the water works, the Second Avenue Corridor in Columbus needs help, which naturally leads to a need for developers who are willing to dream and willing to spend.
Anyone who drives that corridor on their way to Uptown Columbus knows those needs.
There are empty storefronts that date back to 1902 when Bibb City was a company town with a mayor and a police chief supported by a cotton mill that until 2001 was one of the largest in the world. There are rundown shotgun houses that need more than a fresh coat of paint. There are abandoned churches and schoolhouses and Comer Auditorium where Hank Williams Sr. came to sing “Your Cheating Heart” and professional wrestlers came to grunt and groan.
As always, there are visions of what this area on the banks of the Chattahoochee might become.
The Consolidated Government’s Department of Community Reinvestment will bring the community up to date on the future of the area at a public forum Thursday May 3rd at 6 p.m. at Comer Auditorium. It is located at 107 41st in the heart of Bibb City. Other meetings are ahead and Director Laura Johnson hopes this one will be a first step in revitalizing an area in need of work.
The city has received a $300,000 federal grant which Johnson says will help fund environmental studies and eventually become a marketing tool. “We’re also looking for visions,” Johnson says. “Some of them may be a long way off, but we don’t know when developers may act.”
What she needs are success stories.
“We believe if we can have some success we can get apply for more grants,” Johnson says. “The government is looking for success stories and ideas won’t hurt.”
Sites along Second Avenue are considered “Brownfields.” These places are former industrial or commercial sites where future use may be affected by real or suspected contamination. That leads to a need for environmental studies which must be conducted to eliminate potential complications.
“We need to know if there was a service station or a dry cleaning plant on a site in 1908,” she says.
Her department also must educate a public that isn’t familiar with the term “Brownfields,” and may not know that the city already has the funding to begin environmental studies. These steps must be taken before the neighborhood can be redeveloped.
From the 1920s to the 1960s, Bibb City was a viable community. Residents worked in the mill. They didn’t have to come to Broadway to shop or to enjoy a moving picture. They worked down the street, shopped in their own stores, worshiped in their own churches and sent their children to a school around the corner.
If this resurrected Bibb Village is to flourish, some of these things must be reborn.
People dream of many things:
Coffee and pastry shops
Restaurants and cafes
Men's clothing stores
These are pleasant dreams and if they are brought to life they would change the culture of the village just as the expansion of the Chattahoochee Riverwalk has opened many new doors. But before these things are developed and built there must be parking, either traditional parking lots, high-rise parking or even underground parking. People who visit or live in the area must feel safe and secure, And before the community believes in these dreams they must witness the removal of blight.
If such things are accomplished, the Bibb Village could become another piece of a puzzle that begins in Uptown Columbus and connects with Midtown Columbus. But before such dreams can come true something must be done about the deplorable sights and sounds we see and hear on Second Avenue as we travel a gateway corridor that in many spots needs bulldozers as well as dreams.
Laura Johnson is hopeful.
“This can become the next Big Thing for Columbus,” she says. “Good things can happen.”