Over the final three decades of the 20th century, one of the defining features of American life was the abandonment and deterioration of historic urban centers. In cities large and small, from coast to coast, residents and dollars followed the interstate highways out of the old commercial downtowns and out to the suburbs.
Columbia, S.C., may be an exceptional town in some respects – it is, after all, both a state capital and the home of the University of South Carolina – but even these enviable assets could not save it from the centrifugal forces that were leeching the vitality of Downtown U.S.A. during the Seventies and Eighties. College kids and civil servants weren’t enough to prevent Macy’s and other department stores from either decamping for the ‘burbs or shuttering entirely. Our latest Metro Playbook: