The Early Years: From
Establishment through the 1980’s
When Bellevue Springs
(as Cottontown was first called) was developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s,
it was a vibrant neighborhood in the northern reaches of the City of
Columbia. As time passed, neighborhoods were established further and
further from the city center, and many people tried out life in the new
suburbs. Some city neighborhoods, like Cottontown, began to decline.
By the 1970’s, the residents of Cottontown were
facing three major problems.
- First, commercial encroachment threatened the
boundaries of the neighborhood; adjoining businesses were expanding
and encroaching upon residential areas.
- Second, a number of homes (especially along
these boundaries) were showing signs of disrepair. Many
single-family homes had been “cut-up” into rental apartments.
- Finally, cut-through traffic flooded the
streets on a daily basis; in particular, residents complained about
the large trucks that streamed up and down Marion Street to the
Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in the northern part of the neighborhood.
In 1978, in response to
this situation, a detailed, federally-funded neighborhood study of our
neighborhood was undertaken; the plan that came out of this study was a
blueprint for the revitalization of Cottontown. Immediately, at least
three major steps were taken:
- Residents came together to form the first
neighborhood association, called the North Marion Street Area
- City Council took the measures suggested in
the plan to control traffic. Trucks were barred from passing through
the major streets such as Sumter, Marion and Confederate. Also,
traffic medians were installed along Marion Street and on Victoria
to help reduce cut-through traffic.
- To improve the condition of the housing stock
and to discourage commercial encroachment, the City systematically
rezoned the entire neighborhood. The new zoning patterns provided a
more logical and compatible mix of single-family and two-family
homes of different sizes.
These first steps
provided the basis for Cottontown’s renewal, but progress did not always
come easily. For years, the Neighborhood Association had to rally
neighbors to City Council meetings to block the expansion of commercial
and institutional buildings on our borders. Some of the harder-fought
battles included preventing the expansion of the office building at 1331
Elmwood Avenue, keeping the same building from building a multi-story
parking garage right next to the bungalows on Marion St., opposing the
expansion of the Krispy Kreme from Main Street onto Summerville and
Sumter, and keeping the Commission for the Blind from expanding along
Confederate and Victoria. Smaller—but still important—struggles involved
businesses along Sumter, Wallace and Main Street. As an example, the
Neighborhood Association intervened many times with the succession of
bars at 2706 Main Street (corner with Geiger) to limit sales of alcohol,
solve parking problems, and enforce clean-up and proper screening.
The initial measures to
reduce traffic in the neighborhood were enormously successful, and in
the ensuing years the Association fought hard to oppose proposals that
would increase traffic. Successes in this area included blocking the
extension of Harden Street through to Anthony Avenue, stopping a plan to
eliminate on-street parking on Confederate Avenue, and blocking the
alignment of Colonial Drive with Confederate Avenue.
During these years, the
Neighborhood Association also sponsored social functions, such as
Christmas parties. The bulk of our efforts, however, was focused on the
continual battles to protect the neighborhood from commercial
encroachment and increased traffic.
The Middle Years: the
Through the 1990’s, the
Neighborhood Association became more firmly established as an important
lobbying organization in the City. Commercial encroachment and traffic
continued to be the major issues for the neighborhood. In addition, the
Association took on a pro-active stance towards beautification and
accomplishments during this time period included the following:
conversion of the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant into a
Had our historic
neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
construction of a cell-tower at A Self Storage (former Coca-Cola
Watch zones in many parts of the neighborhood.
clean-up of the Confederate Cemetery between Geiger and Anthony.
negotiated with new owner of A Self Storage for landscape buffer on
Committee established to weed, plant, and clean traffic medians.
neighborhood in Columbia to benefit from City’s new targeted
enforcement for traffic hot spots
begun for commercial properties located within and on Cottontown’s
borders. On March 11, 1998 City Council approved rezoning three
houses on Victoria St., two houses on Jefferson St., one house on
Confederate Ave., and a lot on Sumter St. next to the Sherwin
Williams automotive paint store from a commercial designation to
residential. Two houses on Franklin St. were be rezoned from
commercial to Urban Transitional District (UTD). The UTD
designation is meant to preserve a neighborhood’s residential
character while permitting commercial uses that are low traffic
In addition to these
zoning changes, the Neighborhood Association negotiated deed
restrictions on two pieces of commercial property on Cottontown’s
borders. The first agreement is with the owner of A Self-storage at the
old Coca Cola bottling plant site. This restriction will limit use of
the property so that no manufacturing activities and no cellular phone
towers will be allowed there. The second agreement is with the owners
of the office building at 1331 Elmwood Avenue who have signed off on a
deed restriction for the landscaped buffer area around three sides of
the parking lot behind the building to prohibit any other use of those
negotiated with the Salvation Army and the City of Columbia for a
police substation to be located on site and creation of a
Neighborhoods Advisory Council for the Salvation Army, Cottontown,
Earlewood, and Elmwood Park.
property owners, City Council, Fire Dept. and Police Dept. to evict
vagrants from warehouses and abandoned office building on 1200 block
with the City to force the owner of a condemned house on Sumter
Street to tear it down.
receives $8,635 Community Incentives grant from the City to expand
Neighborhood Crime Watch zones, install neighborhood gateway signs,
install Cottontown street sign toppers, produce Cottontown car
decals and bumper stickers, and repair traffic diverter at Franklin
and Marion Streets.
Recent Years: 2000 to
signs installed at intersection of Marion and Confederate.
successfully fought request for beer, wine, and liquor permit for
bar at corner of Main and Geiger - kept bar from opening.
received Community Incentives grant from City to install
neighborhood signs, purchase land for Habitat House on site of
demolished condemned house, install fountain and landscaping at
intersection of Frankin and Marion, install new landscaping at
intersection of Summerville and Marion.
fence design, irrigation, and additional landscaping (more than
required by City) to buffer new building at A Self Storage.
worked with City to install four-way stop signs at Sumter and
Confederate, revised “No Right Turn” signs at Bull and Franklin and
Bull and Jefferson to allow turns on weekends, reinstated “No Left
Turn” at southbound corner of Marion and Confederate.
received Columbia Council of Neighborhoods 2001 Neighborhood
Achievement Award for successful implementation of 2000 Community
Incentives Grant projects.
received CANDO grant from City of Columbia to purchase land for
Habitat house next to Sherwin Williams automotive paint store on
Sumter Street, produce and distribute a historic preservation
manual, install landscape material in traffic islands at Grace and
Marion and Victoria and Bull, install crepe myrtles on Sumter, and
install Centennial Banners at neighborhood gateways.
negotiated conditions on the zoning special exception granted for
Tom’s auto repair shop at corner of Sumter and Franklin - kept gas
Worked with City
officials to shut down illegally opened bar at corner of Main and
Went to court with
City Fire Department to force owner of 1221 Sumter to secure
building and evict vagrants.
Cottontown received CANDO grant to install
brick and wrought iron fence at North Main Street Fire Station.
Worked with the
Department of Mental Health to clear Anthony Avenue property of long
term stored cars, boats, golf carts.
Worked with City
to have traffic light at intersection of Sumter and Confederate
Historic Columbia Foundation Celia Mann Award in recognition of our
Historic Preservation Manual. This award is presented to a
neighborhood that has researched and preserved, through a cohesive
effort, its structures and common areas.