Chuck Williams: Dressed up and waiting

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comMay 12, 2014 

I will never forget the artist's comment.

I believe it was 2011, and the man was from Athens, Ga., or somewhere like that. He was outside The Loft in the 1000 block of Broadway, installing a sculpture on downtown public space.

Anyway, those are just details. What matters is what the artist said.

The question was simple: What do you think of downtown?

"It looks like it's dressed up for something that hasn't happened yet," he responded.

He made me laugh. Then, he made me think.

And -- on and off -- that comment has popped in my mind for three years.

"It looks like it's dressed up for something that hasn't happened yet."

I thought about it again Friday night as my wife and I walked downtown, pushing our granddaughter in a stroller.

Downtown living is good.

We got frozen yogurt at Freeze Frame, something we certainly couldn't have done three years ago.

There was a festival down on the river, just across from the new store for the whitewater outfitter. The Chattahoochee River whitewater course was not here three years ago. The dams were still in place, though the plan to blow them up was being executed.

The Columbus State University downtown campus was functional three years ago and students were being housed down here, but something seems more vibrant and alive about that today, more than it did then.

We have two Broadway coffee shops in the 1000 block, instead of one.

Two coffee shops on the same block may not sound like much, but coffee shops foster the kind of activity -- day and night -- that pump life into a community.

There are more restaurants, offering more dining options than there were three years ago. And more people are dining and drinking on the sidewalks. Another sign of life.

Heck, you can even go into Maltitude and buy a growler of beer and take it to the house. You could not do that three years ago.

The wig shops are gone and higher-end retail is on the way.

There is no doubt three years ago downtown Columbus was well on its way to being something different than it had been in many of our lifetimes.

Today, I argue that artist was a prophet.

"It looks like it's dressed up for something that hasn't happened yet."

Look around you, folks; it's happening.

And when the history of the rebirth of downtown Columbus is written, I argue we will say this summer -- right now -- is when it happened.

The whitewater course got its trial run season out of the way. They expect 25,000 people to go down the river this summer. I bet it's more.

There is a new splash pad, complete with lights and music -- where kids can play. Just north of Dillingham Street Bridge, that splash pad and the military honor walk will create a new downtown park.

More people coming downtown. More options.

We dress up nicely around here.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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