March 19th, 2009 11:05 PM by Jason Compton
Chronology of the Three Rivers Greenway
In November 1996, the Alliance proposed that a 12-mile 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 with the proviso that the Alliance recommend an acceptable funding strategy. In April 1997, the Alliance recommended and the member governments began to implement a regional strategy based on Tax Increment Financing. Now, the cities of Cayce and West Columbia have enabled tax increment districts. The City of Columbia, Richland County, and Richland School District One have approved the proposal to extend the 1986 “Congaree Vista” Tax Increment District to fund the project. While the process took almost three years, it is an important step in collective regionalism.
The River Alliance also requested available federal alternative transportation (ISTEA and TEA-21) funding, and over $4 million has been allocated. Portions of the Three Rivers Greenway in Cayce and West Columbia will be started with this federal/local match contribution.
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 8-foot 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. Public use of the facility, now known as Granby Park, has been steady and reactions very positive. The nearby neighborhoods consider it theirs and want it extended.
In May 1997, the three cities designated the Alliance as Project Manager for the Three Rivers Greenway Design, Engineering and Permitting Phase. Currently, the entire Three Rivers Greenway has been laid out and surveyed, and separated into funded project “packages.” Environmental and archaeological work is completed. Granby Park is open and in use. Biddable construction documents for Cayce Riverwalk, Congaree Riverwalk, EdVenture Connection, and West Columbia Riverwalk are complete. Engineering and design continues on the remainder.
An integral part of the River Alliance strategy was the promotion of the downtown residential infill. The twin goals were increases in population and tax base. In Columbia, key elements were the City’s purchase of a 23-acre prison site now master planned and being marketed as the “Canalside” community. One apartment project, contiguous to Granby Park, the “Rapids” (240 units) is completed and fully occupied. Another is underway. In Cayce, developers have announced “South Hampton” as an exclusive condominium product and are about to announce a student-housing apartment project. All these are on or within two blocks of the Greenway system.
Embedded in the concept of the Three Rivers Greenway is the clustering of tourism activity in the area surrounding the South Carolina State Museum. EdVenture, the children’s museum, is now up and operational
Another goal is increased non-motorized water sport activity with access programmed in along the Greenway. In conjunction with South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, the Alliance conducted a National Park Service Recreational Flow Analysis of the recreation potential available in the whitewater of the lower Saluda and Congaree River. Results of the analysis revealed that expanded paddle sport use was feasible and highly desirable. The Greenway will open up this expanded access.
The Cayce Riverwalk groundbreaking took place in January 2002 and the West Columbia Riverwalk groundbreaking took place in February 2002. The Cayce and West Columbia Riverwalks are now open and operational.
In November 2004 the addition to Riverfront Park, the Canal Embankment was open to the public. In October 2005, the Mill Villages Riverlink component opened. The West Columbia Riverwalk Extension and the Cayce Riverland Park Connection are currently under construction. Once open, both sections will bring the Greenway total to 8 1/2 miles.
The Greenway story will continue…