Getting Around. Like many southern cities, Columbia is no place to be without a car. Bus service runs around downtown, with just a few routes that extend beyond the center of the city. And, if you decide to wait at a bus stop without checking the schedule, then you will most likely be sitting there for a couple of hours before a bus shows up. However, traffic will be a breeze in most areas. Some rush hour traffic occurs downtown on the I-20, as well as on the infamous Malfunction Junction, a confusing and dangerous interchange at Bush River Rd., I-20, I-26, and I-126.
College Town Mayhem. Like any college town, apartment buildings can get pretty wild where the students live. Whether you love it or loathe it, it is good to know which neighborhoods harbor these educated hoodlums. Obviously, the complexes near campus will have a heavy student population, but there are also neighborhoods in surrounding areas that attract students due to affordable rental rates and easy commutes. Be sure to keep an eye out for these areas in the neighborhood guide below. There is also a city-wide fluctuation of rental rates and availabilities that coincide with the schedule of the school year. The best time to find an apartment will be during the Christmas and summer breaks, right after school lets out. You can also find some great deals in apartments that have failed to fill all of their units after the semester is in full swing again.
Watch Your Water. Columbia is known to have some of the best tasting water in the country. However, many older apartment complexes tend to accumulate extremely high water bills due to the common plumbing problems of older buildings. There are a few things to consider, water-wise, when deciding on your apartment. For instance, does the toilet ever stop running after you flush it? Can you hear any leaks in the faucets, showers, or in the walls? Does the apartment charge its tenants for pool water? All of these factors are likely to result in an uncomfortably high water bill.
Underground Culture. Don't feel quite at home in a city of cliché college clubs, upscale art museums, and church-going conservative affairs? Check out these great spots for entertainment of the gritty, local, underground breed: Art Bar, the Hunter-Gatherer, Alley Cafe, summer concert series at Finlay Park, occasional music on the river, and amazing street bands playing on the corner for change during major festivals and holiday events. You can also visit New Brooklyn Tavern in the neighboring city of West Columbia for hardcore music, or catch bluegrass jams in the nearby city of Cayce.
Spare yourself the hours of research, and use this guide to find the neighborhoods that suit you best. Columbia has affordable, as well as luxurious rentals available all around the city, whether you want to live in the bright lights of downtown, or need some space with wide-open country views and dark star-gazing skies.
University Hill. Campus life, surrounded by downtown nightlife. $ - $$$$
Congaree Vista. A renaissance on the river: beautiful parks, plenty of food, a growing music scene, and a healthy dose of art and theater, all accompanied by cold beer and cocktails. $ - $$$$
Earlewood Park. Riverfront neighborhood of old cottages, neighborhood parks, and downtown skyline views. $
Elmwood. Popular for its affordability, downtown proximity, and charming 1920's bungalows. $ - $$$$$
Cottontown. Historic homes and churches with unique rental options. $$
Olympia-Grandby. A working class neighborhood paying bigwig rates for riverfront rentals and an easy walk to downtown. $$$
Hollywood-Rose Hill. A safe neighborhood right next to campus, with good eats and a short walk to downtown nightlife. $$$
Waverly. An affordable neighborhood surrounded by colleges: Allen University, Benedict college, and Palmer College, plus the University of South Carolina about a mile down the road. $
Melrose Heights. A highly desirable neighborhood for professionals and students due to its proximity to downtown. $$$
Old Shandon. Historic homes with bay windows, tons of shopping nearby, plus a quick commute to nearby universities and downtown entertainment. $$$
Shandon. A favorite for families, students, and professionals because of its tree-lined streets, distinctive architecture, and proximity to downtown and nearby shopping. $$$
Rosewood. A shady neighborhood revitalized, complete with vintage atmosphere and uniquely Rosewood personality. $$$
Southeast. Mostly affordable, with random pockets of richies driving up the rent. $ - $$$$$
Arcadia Lakes. Soldiers love it for the commute, golfers love it for the country club, and everyone else loves it for the nearby lake on a hot summer day. $$$ - $$$$$
Dentsville. Golfers love the Spring Valley Country Club, but it is truly amazing for the scenery and nearby Sesquicentennial State Park. (Try saying that name three times fast) $$$ - $$$$$
Woodfield. Next door to Fort Jackson with everything you could as for in a neighborhood: lakes, a state park, a shopping center, and your choice of affordable, pricey, and absurdly expensive rentals. $$$ - $$$$$
Forest Acres. Another country club neighborhood, with equally easy commutes to the lake or to downtown. $$$ - $$$$$
Spring Valley. A little farther north, complete with country club, enormous state park, tons of eats and shopping, plus a quick commute to Fort Jackson$ - $$$$$
Greenview. The middle class area surrounded by country club neighborhoods. $ - $$$
Eau Claire. Comes with a few parks, a few cemeteries, riverfront bike rides, Columbia College, and a gentlemen's club. What more could you ask for? $ - $$$
The Colony. A slew of beltline bars and plenty of affordable rentals. $ - $$
Lincolnshire. Mostly affordable neighborhood, with some more upscale apartments around the Oak Hills Golf Club. $ - $$$
Haskell Heights. Rough and tough. $
Denny Terrace. Isolated, off the beaten path, and a little sketchy. $$ - $$$
St. Andrews. The wildest college students mixed with a large population of recovering addicts, recently incarcerated renters, and wandering prison escapees. Not a neighborhood for the faint of heart. $$$ - $$$$
Seven Oaks. People who move here never leave. It's a tight-knit, "Leave It to Beaver" community just down the road from Lake Murray. $$ - $$$$$
Irmo. Amazing location for outdoors lovers, with Lake Murray and the Harbison State Forest right next door. $ - $$$$$
That's the city breakdown for you. Now it's time to see it for yourself. Good luck with the hunt, and keep in mind that southern hospitality is a two-way street.
-By Kera Zacuto
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM RENT ADVISOR:
Want to find a great apartment in a city that holds all of the prominent characteristics of nostalgic Americana? Columbia, South Carolina possesses everything that screams apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Recently named an All-America Community by the National Civic League and recognized as one of the 30 areas crowned "America's Most Livable Communities", Columbia, South Carolina has an apartment community populated with civic-minded folk focused on community development and improvements. Apartment occupants in this town can rest assured their civic liberties are well guarded.
Being a vibrant commercial and residential city center, Columbia is home to a diverse and growing business market full of numerous law firms, banks and real estate corporations. This diversity is the key to Columbia's economy. The University of South Carolina, Benedict College, Columbia College and other technical colleges are home to thousands of students, yet Columbia is not a college town. Fort Jackson is located in Columbia, yet Columbia is not a military town. Columbia has a sizable retirement community, yet Columbia is not a retirement city. Columbia's economy benefits from a varied commercial-industrial base, yet there is enough recreation and natural beauty around the area keeping it from being a work-only city.
Columbia's fortuitous location, two hours from the mountains and the ocean, is an often-cited plus. Similarly, at the confluence of two major rivers, Columbia is one of the best destinations in the country for kayak and canoe enthusiasts. Being in the heart of the south has drastically lead to the economic explosion of the area, as it is three hours from Atlanta, an hour and a half to Greenville or Charlotte, two hours to Charleston with beautiful Asheville being two and a half hours away.
•lower cost of living/slower pace of life
•Young population - 7 colleges and universities
•Two great entertainment areas - The Vista and Five Points
•best canoeing/kayaking in the region
•Avoid the 20/26 interchange between 7-9 and 4-6 on work days
•Long-distance travel (airfare is high, trains have poor hours)
The People - Who Lives Here?
As of the census of 2000, there were 113,278 people, 42,245 households, and 22,136 families residing in the city. The population density was 928.6 people per square mile. There were 46,142 housing units at an average density of 368.5/sq mi. The racial makeup of the city was 49.22% White, 45.98% African American, 1.73% Asian, 0.25% Native American, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 1.36% from other races, and 1.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.03% of the population.
There were 42,245 households out of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.5% were married couples living together, 17.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% were nonfamilies. 37.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 22.9% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 96.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.
Like any other major city in the southern US, Columbia's population is largely dominated by Protestantism, the largest being the Southern Baptists, followed by the Methodists.
The Value - Rental prices vs. quality of living
The median income for a household in the city was $31,141, and the median income for a family was $39,589. Males had a median income of $30,925 versus $24,679 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,853. About 17.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.9% ages 65 or older.
Transportation & Traffic
The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (CMRTA), is the agency responsible for operating mass transit in greater Columbia area including Cayce, West Columbia, Forest Acres, Arcadia Lakes, Springdale, and the St. Andrews area. CMRTA operates express shuttles, and bus service serving Columbia and its immediate suburbs.
The city and its surroundings are served by Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
The city is served daily by Amtrak station, with the Silver Star trains connecting Columbia with New York City, Washington, DC, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. The Amtrak station is located at 850 Pulaski St.
Entertainment & Recreation - Things to do
Columbia offers surprising restaurants in alleys and offbeat entertainment in restored warehouses. Or try Trustus, an avant-garde, professional theater that's been bringing off-Broadway to South Carolina's capital city for 18 years. Buy a drink at the bar, settle into a comfy swivel chair, and munch on the free popcorn, while waiting for the show. It could be a musical, a comedy or a provocative drama. Whatever's playing, it will be an experience.
The Columbia Festival of the Arts takes place in April. The 10-day arts celebration spotlights the local theater, artists, museums, musicians and dancers that grace the arts scene of Columbia, South Carolina.
The EdVenture children's museum, across from the State Museum, offers hands-on exhibits and special programs.
Columbia Museum of Art offers a "window to the world" to its visitors, not only through the display of its permanent collection, but with a series of public programs.
Or there's the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, which is one of the top ten zoos in the country and has recently completed a $19 million expansion. The Colonial Center is an 18,000-seat basketball/entertainment arena, and there's a new convention center.
Columbia enjoys a diversified economy, with the major employers in the area being South Carolina state government, the Palmetto Health hospital system, Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC, Palmetto GBA, and the University of South Carolina. Neighboring Cayce is home to the headquarters of SCANA, a Fortune 500 company which supplies energy to parts of the Carolinas and Georgia. Other major employers in the Columbia area include Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army's 2nd largest training installation behind Fort Bragg, Richland School District One, Humana/TriCare, and the United Parcel Service, which operates its Southeastern Regional Hub at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, though this hub was recently downsized. Major manufacturers such as Square D, CMC Steel, Spirax Sarco, Michelin, International Paper, Pirelli Cables, Honeywell, Westinghouse Electric, Harsco Track Tech, Trane, Intertape Polymer Group, Union Switch & Signal, Solectron, and Bose Corporation Technology have facilities in Columbia.
Many reputable publications and institutes recognize the strength and potential of the city's economy. In Forbes 2009 "Best Places for Business and Careers" list, Columbia ranked 34th overall among the 200 large metropolitan areas ranked. Columbia ranked 14th in BusinessWeek magazine's 2009 list of the 40 strongest metro economies in the nation. Forbes also named Columbia as one of the nation's top 100 cities for jobs in its 2008 listing. Bizjournals ranked Columbia 25th of 105 medium-sized labor markets for young adult job seekers and 15th of 77 metropolitan areas in its "Jewels of the Sunbelt" ranking, which ranks cities according to "blend of comfortable lifestyle and warm weather". Inc.com's 2008 Boomtown rankings, which is based on job-growth data as supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, listed Columbia 19th among midsized metropolitan areas nationwide. POLICOM, a company that specializes in studying the dynamics of local economies, placed the Columbia metropolitan region in the top 20th percentile among the 361 U.S. Census Bureau-designated metropolitan statistical areas nationwide (and first among metropolitan areas in the state) in its 2008 economic strength rankings.
Columbia is home to the following universities:
-University of South Carolina - Chartered in 1801 as South Carolina College and in 1906 as the University of South Carolina. The university has 350 degree programs and enrolls more than 27,500 students throughout 15 degree-granting colleges and schools. It is an urban university, located in downtown Columbia.
-Allen University - Founded in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It has a distinguished history and is widely recognized for its development of African-Americans who have made significant achievements and contributions in varied areas of specialization, nationally and internationally.
-Benedict College - Founded in 1870, Benedict is an independent co-educational college. Benedict is one of the fastest growing of the 39 United Negro College Fund schools. In addition to an increase in enrollment, Benedict has also seen an increase in average SAT scores, Honors College enrollee rates, capital giving dollars, and the number of research grants awarded. Recently, Benedict has been subject to a series of recent controversies, including basing up to 60% of grades solely on effort, which have nearly resulted in its losing its accreditation. However, in recent months the college has improved its financial standing and is seeking to boost its enrollment.
-Columbia College - Founded in 1854, Columbia College is a private, four-year, liberal arts college for women with a coeducational Evening College and Graduate School. The College has been ranked since 1994 by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten regional liberal arts colleges in the South.
-Columbia International University - Columbia International University is a biblically-based, private Christian institution committed to "preparing men and women to know Christ and to make Him known". Founded in 1923, CIU is recognized as having one of the leading ministry training programs in the world.
-Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary - This institution, founded in 1830, is a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. One of the oldest Lutheran seminaries in North America, Southern is a fully accredited graduate school of theology preparing women and men for the ordained and lay ministries of the church. The wooded 17-acre (69,000 m2) campus is situated atop Seminary Ridge in Columbia, the highest point in the Midlands area, near the geographic center of the city.
-Midlands Technical College - Midlands Tech is part of the South Carolina Technical College System. It is a two-year, comprehensive, public, community college, offering a wide variety of programs in career education, four-year college-transfer options, and continuing education. Small classes, individualized instruction, and student support services are provided. Most of the college's teaching faculty holds master's or doctoral degrees.
Public schools are within the following districts:
-Richland County School District One
-Richland County School District Two
-Lexington County School District One
-Lexington County School District Two
-Lexington & Richland County School District Five