Chuck Williams

Downtown Columbus is changing rapidly

I am not an expert on many things. Through years of reporting, I know just enough about a wide variety of topics ranging from sports to politics to business. Some of my friends and enemies would argue I know just enough to look and sound like a fool.

And they are probably right.

But I do know one thing pretty well. I know more than a little about downtown Columbus.

Since June 18, 1989, I have worked on 12th Street, coming and going at all hours of the day and night. While on the Ledger-Enquirer sports desk throughout the 1990s, it was not uncommon to leave the Ledger-Enquirer building well after midnight. Back then, it was a much different downtown, far more unsavory characters.

Since Thanksgiving 2010, I have lived in the Historic District, a short walk from the heart of downtown. Many times I have made that walk, early in the morning, midday and late at night.

I consider it a safe place. Like anywhere, you have to be aware of your surroundings. But I have never felt unsafe downtown.

Through the years, I have been the victim of two crimes. Sometime in the mid-1990s, a man stole my golf clubs out of my SUV. He was a brilliant criminal mind, leaving a trail of head covers along Front Avenue to the pawn shop that was once located where TSYS is now.

Once inside the pawn shop, I found my clubs. They had been brought in by a man using a Georgia Department of Corrections ID true story. I got my clubs back, and still use them today. At one point, I was called to testify in court against the man accused of stealing the clubs from my unlocked vehicle. It was his third strike and he was facing life in prison for his transgression.

My late brother, Chip, joked that if anyone should get life in prison for what had been done with those golf clubs, it was me. He was probably right.

Last fall, my bicycle was stolen off my front porch. The blame for that one rests on me and the person who stole it. I left it unlocked overnight, a clear oversight. When I woke up at 5 a.m. to walk the dog, the bike was gone. I noticed it right away and screamed a few self-directed obscenities.

The reason for sharing this is simple.

Downtown Columbus is changing rapidly far more rapidly than my first two decades here. It is becoming a more inviting place to live, work and play. You see people down here who would have never been here 25 years ago. Retired folks and students are seeking downtown life. That will only increase as the Chattahoochee River whitewater course opens this summer.

There will always be people who want to badmouth one part of town or another. Next time you hear someone talking about downtown, ask them how much time they spend in downtown Columbus.

My bet is not a lot.

What was once undesirable is desirable again. Old is new. And it is pretty safe as long as you lock up your bike.