In January of 2017, ground was broken on West Columbia’s multi-million-dollar Brookland development. It marked the first big project in West Columbia after Brian Carter was named city administrator. Carter began his career as a City of West Columbia Police officer in 1998. Since he has obtained an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a graduate degree in Management.
In his time as administrator, there have been a long list of upgrades that have added to the redevelopment and revitalization of West Columbia.
“It is phenomenal the amount of good things, the positive growth that has been accomplished in West Columbia,” Carter said in a December interview, “but those things would not have been possible if we didn’t meet the demand for the basic services, sanitation, parks, police, fire, paramedics and all those things. We have to provide water and sewer services, then we can move on to spend time on the big visible things people are enjoying.”
In addition to Brookland, other city-supported projects include: Carraway Children’s Park at The Riverwalk; parking lots at Brookland and Capitol Square; the Artisan Market and the Interactive Art Park on Meeting Street; Pedestrian-friendly crosswalks on Meeting Street, State Street and Sunset Boulevard; and new street lights on Meeting Street.
Along with the public enhancements, commercial businesses have flocked to West Columbia. High-profile sites like Savage Craft Ale Works; Flow Riverfront Townhomes; Ds Wings, the Brookland project; Black Rooster; WECO Bottle and Biergarten, just to name a few, have opened their doors. And many more are planning to come. Carter said there is a reason that so many are attracted to West Columbia.”It’s our culture,” he said. “We have a mindset of a clean, safe place and we remove as much bureaucracy as possible. We’re hungry for growth and development. We find a way to say yes.”
Carter also said he can’t overstate the value of support of West Columbia’s elected officials. He said they have provided vision and then stepped to the side and let the city’s staff get it done, giving them the authority and the resources to do it. He also noted that Mayor Tem Miles and all city council incumbents were re-elected in November, with resounding support from the city’s residents.
Carter said the city has made “tremendous progress” in marketing itself as a destination and more is being done. He said public art partnerships, like the Interactive Art Park is an effort to engage visitors. Carter said other areas of town will also be developed. Plans are being made for Capitol Square, but no official word has been released. The narrowing of Meeting Street to two lanes will also provide more parking and it will make the area more pedestrian friendly.
The success of close-to 40 new St. Annes Alley homes being built and sold in the Center Street area will lead to additional residential growth there, and on the Avenues. Carter said City Council’s willingness to review and revise zoning rules will encourage new home construction. The work in the River District is part of a plan to make improvements elsewhere in the city, too.
“The intention is for the River District to be a catalyst,” Carter said, “for moving forward with enhancements from 9th Street to Dreher Road and from Klapman Boulevard to US 1.” He also said the West Columbia Beautification Foundation is enhancing public spaces in the US1 Corridor and all the way to Airport Boulevard. Infrastructure upgrades are also going on in the Saluda Gardens and New Brookland Mill Village neighborhoods, with new sewage lines on Sunset Boulevard, past Lexington Medical Center, are also positive projects to improve West Columbia.
With augmented infrastructure, Carter said the city would continue to recruit economic development including: grocers; retail outlets; and restaurants. As for inspiration, Carter said West Columbia looks at the success of other cities, including: Myrtle Beach, San Antonio; Philadelphia; Augusta; San Francisco; and Nashville. He also said progress is a group effort. “It’s the vision of everybody bringing a brick and creating something. It’s not one individual.”
Carter said planning for West Columbia’s revitalization has been in the making for decades and it has occurred despite a global shutdown brought about by the COVID pandemic. Carter said he has always loved West Columbia and has seen the beauty of it since he’s been here.
“The city has been very good to me,” he said. “It has allowed me the opportunity to grow and develop.”
When it comes to building a team, Carter said he wants a staff that loves West Columbia, too, and he has one. “We look for three attributes in hiring,” he said. “Be humble, be hungry, and be people-smart.” He also said so much has been accomplished in his tenure because the city’s staff works together to help each other and they want to develop personally.