Cautious steps prepare for future

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?

–– Aeschylus

Nearly three years ago, a lazy winter weekend in Columbiana became one of much activity and anguish. Summer Classics Columbiana manufacturing facility was consumed by fire; the site off West College leaves few clues today of what once stood.

Summer Classics relocated production to other facilities in the days following the fire and the City of Columbiana purchased the property for future development and expansion. A portion of the site has since been donated to the Shelby County Arts Council.

Gresham, Smith and Partners, the architectural firm responsible for the renovation of Columbiana’s downtown a few years ago, made initial conceptual plans for the property.

Now, two architects familiar with Columbiana have shared an additional plan. W. Lee Bryant, who lives in the Columbiana area and is an architect with Lathan Associates Architects P.C., along with Charles L. Sowell III, a landscape architect who helped design the city’s downtown streetscape, presented their vision to the city last week.

It is helpful, in my mind, to begin to envision such a project before deciding what it is to be and what it is not to be.

A new, more expansive library. An outdoor amphitheater for community events. Mixed use buildings creating new retail space, while attracting more people downtown to live and work. A new home for the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce and the Shelby County Arts Council.

City leaders are wise to move cautiously, given the current economy, but beginning work now is the prudent step.

Much like having houseguests, if you wait until guests arrive to make your home “presentable,” it no doubt will not be.

Taking steps now to prepare for what can be done with the “Summer Classics” property is the right thing to do.