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Columbus News

Posted on: December 27, 2023

YEAR IN REVIEW: #5 Positive developments in downtown Columbus

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This last year saw a surge in renewed efforts to revitalize downtown Columbus.

NOTE TO READERS: A lot happened in Columbus throughout 2023, including at the City of Columbus. In the spirit of the holiday season, we want to take a moment to highlight the five stories that City staff and leaders identified among their favorites of the year. We also took into account comments and readership stories received on the City’s website and social media channels. We're counting down starting with No. 5.

This last year saw a surge in renewed efforts to revitalize downtown Columbus.

The City of Columbus put out a call to artists to create murals for the back of the bandshell in Frankfort Square and later for another on the second floor of the Columbus Public Library within the Columbus Community Building. Both jobs ended up being awarded to local artist Yara Ramos-Hernandez, who was later hired by local group Columbus In Action for a mural outside its Columbus Innovation Center. The murals were completed throughout the summer.


(ABOUT THE PHOTO: Columbus Arts Council Executive Director Elley Coffin, left, City Planning and Economic Development Director Jean Van Iperen and local artist Yara Ramos-Hernandez show off one of her murals in July 2023 inside the Columbus Public Library on the second floor of the Columbus Community Building.)


(ABOUT THE PHOTO: Columbus artist Yara Ramos-Hernandez on a June 2023 morning works on her mural on the back of the bandshell in Frankfort Square.)

“I’m super happy to have had the opportunity to represent the Columbus community, which is for me about welcoming, unity, support to each other and growth,” Ramos-Hernandez said in December 2023, reflecting on her three murals installed in downtown Columbus this year.

City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen oversaw the development of the two City murals and is pleased with the results.

“I think the murals have gone over really well. Even though all three were done by the same artist, each one is very unique in their design and color schemes. Yara, I think, did a great job in creating a mural reflecting the wishes of each group that commissioned her,” Van Iperen said. “They will be great additions to the mural walk being created by the Columbus Creative District.”

Speaking of creative districts - in early fall, the Nebraska Arts Council announced Downtown Columbus would be awarded a special Certified Creative District designation that comes with a grant to help promote the arts in the area. The announcement came after Van Iperen submitted an application for Columbus and helped guide Nebraska Arts Council officials on a tour through downtown with the support of several local business owners.


(ABOUT THE PHOTOS: City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen and Columbus Arts Council Executive Director Elley Coffin are seen here with Nebraska Arts Council representatives in May 2023 during a guided tour of downtown at Terrace Books, top, Wildflower Pastries, bottom left, and Artzy Haven, right)

“By incorporating art into the downtown area, it gives residents and visitors just one more reason to come to the area and enjoy the beauty that the district holds,” Van Iperen said. “With more programming taking place in the Columbus Art Council’s gallery space, the creation of a mural walk featuring all the murals already in the district as well as being accepted into the Sculpture Walk Across Nebraska program, the Columbus downtown area will have a lot to provide for hopefully years to come.”

A Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) was formed in 2023 and saw its board spring to action.

The BID Board has begun the task of branding the district, being mindful of the public and determined to make sure the district resonates with the community.

“The Board is listening to the property owners, business owners and residents in the district and are making decisions based on those conversations,” Van Iperen said. “They truly are trying to do what will be good for the district.”

The annual Columbus Days celebration in August and November’s Holiday Parade were among the many community activities that saw hundreds of Columbus residents pack Frankfort Square and the downtown district.

Overall, there seems to be a growing buzz for downtown as we enter 2024.

“With everything that we have in the works, I am really excited to see how it all comes together in the next few years,” Van Iperen said. “Columbus has been fortunate to be granted so many opportunities to improve the downtown area and I think we are on the cusp of even better things happening.”

Copyright © 2023 City of Columbus


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