Columbus city leaders push to restore Liberty District, ask public to share future vision

(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – A new push emerging from Columbus city officials to rebuild Columbus' Liberty District, a historic cultural hub for the African-American community.

The public gathered at the city government annex building on 10th Street to share its vision at a meeting to discuss a new master plan for the district.

The Liberty District Master Plan was first unveiled in the early 2000's.  Since then, it's been a controversial talking point for the community at large, but city officials say they want to work together with the community to bring the district back to its former glory.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley was first to speak to a crowd of concerned citizens, and he offered this vision for the neighborhood:

"You know, my vision of the Liberty District would be kind of a replica of what I see in Uptown," Hugley said.

By the end of Tuesday afternoon's meeting, the key task facing both the city and concerned citizens is creating a committee that will dedicate a lot of time and energy into creating a common vision for the Liberty District.

"We will be intentional in trying to identify a champion for the Liberty District," Hugley said, "a person who can be on the ground, each and every day, working to make the Liberty District happen."

During his talk, Hugley cited the fact that the city has already invested millions of dollars into rejuvenating the district.

"[We've] spent 37-million dollars on flood abatement, we've spent more than 4-million dollars acquiring property, [demolishing] properties, doing infrastructure kinds of things," Hugley said.

Hugley also said the city wants to involve private investment in the restoration of Liberty District.

The goal, similar to the 2005 master plan, would be to offer restaurants, retail shops, and apartments to attract business to the area and sustain it for the future.

Others in the audience, like local pastor Adrian Chester, offered their concerns and opinions— chief among them— making sure the historic elements like the Liberty Theater are preserved.

"I would hope the main elements that brought this area to prominence, as far as culture, multi-cultural entertainment, and also cultural events, will be brought back to that area," Chester said, "and also, opportunities for entrepreneurs from whatever ethnicity or culture."

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