The Vista Guild

Once a bustling cotton warehouse district and commercial railroad terminal, the Vista area of downtown Columbia had declined severely by the late 1970s. Neglect, deterioration, and a downturn in the economy plagued the district, and Columbia turned her back on the riverfront Vista.

In the early 1980s, several business owners, inspired by a forward-looking Mayor Kirk Finlay, created the Congaree Vista Guild. These businesspeople and artists pledged their time and resources to rehabilitating and renovating the Vista as Columbia’s art and entertainment hub. The original members of the Vista Guild were committed to developing a new aesthetic and community experience for Columbia.

Slowly things began to change. The South Carolina State Museum became an anchor tenant by renovating an old textile mill. Major projects like Finlay Park and the Gervais Streetscape added to the excitement. Restaurants, art galleries, creative agencies, retail shops, and antique dealers moved in, renovating the old warehouse buildings and train stations -- preserving the eclectic feel of the district for locals while creating an upscale travel destination for visitors.

Today, the Vista is vibrant with more than 60 restaurants and bars, and about 40 art galleries and specialty shops. In addition, Columbia’s Colonial Center arena and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, shape the southern boundary of the Vista. The Publix Market, located in the historic South Carolina State Dispensary warehouse, has ushered in a new era of urban residential development previously unheard of in Columbia.

The Congaree Vista Guild presently boasts a larger, more active membership than ever before. The Guild plays an integral role in the economic development and viability of the Vista. Working closely with the City of Columbia and in partnership with the Columbia Development Corporation, we are one of the most active and vocal merchant and neighborhood organizations in the city.