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The Columbia Heart Beat -- 9/6/06

Chronicling the Renaissance of North Central, the Heart of Columbia


Columbia's Koonse Glass Helps Preserve Historic Neighborhood Corner

Koonse Glass, whose motto is “If You Can See Through It, We Do It,” is helping local residents more clearly see a small but important part of Columbia history.

The Columbia-based glass contractor has agreed to replace damaged and broken panes of glass that form the storefront windows of the Heibel-March Drug Store, a 2005 City of Columbia Notable Historic Property on the corner of Wilkes and Rangeline streets.

Local attorney Carl Edwards, Sr. is coordinating the effort.

“We think bringing the building back to life is a great idea and are happy to contribute our services,” said Koonse Glass owner Mike Koonse.  “We’re glad to see the effort to restore the building moving ahead.”

At the center of that effort is the “Corner Action Committee,” a group of concerned citizens who envision a new life for the nearly century-old brick building as a community center.

Strategically located next to Field Park and Field Elementary School, the newly christened “Corner” is “so well placed it could be a lighthouse for community activity,” said Stephens College drama and theatre professor Peter Byger.

A member of the Corner Action Committee -- which includes school board member Darin Preis, contractor Dan Cullimore, and Edwards, whose son Carl, Jr. drives for NASCAR -- Byger envisions performances, gatherings, offices, “or however you want to use” the building’s numerous open rooms.

The glass restoration will contribute to North Central Columbia’s ongoing renaissance as an arts-friendly neighborhood dedicated to historic restoration of long-time industrial structures such as the Diggs Packing Plant and Watkins Roofing warehouses.

And while fixing a few broken windows may seem a small achievement, it’s actually much more.

Sociologists James Wilson’s and George Kelling’s landmark “broken windows theory” of crime prevention and neighborhood revitalization has fascinated public policy makers ever since it first appeared in the March 1982 Atlantic Monthly.

“Consider a building with a few broken windows,” wrote Wilson and Kelling. “If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.”

A successful strategy for preventing crime and decay, they claim, is to fix problems when they are small. Repair broken windows and bigger problems are less likely.

Byger -- whose acting pedigree includes a well-regarded turn in the classic movie “The Diary of Anne Frank” -- sees the Heibel-March restoration in similar terms: several small, timely steps that -- taken together -- become one giant leap for the entire community.

“We want to go the next level, whatever it takes,” said Byger. “Once we get the building finished, there will be so many people who will want to use it.”

For more information on The Corner, contact Peter Byger at 443-0651/876-7187, email pbeiger@... or Dan Cullimore at 875-0887, email dkessell@....

You can also visit the Corner Action Committee's blog at http://www.corneraction.blogspot.com.

 

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