Founded in 1828 by an act of the Georgia Legislature, Columbus was situated at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River and on the last stretch of the Federal Road before entering Alabama. Columbus is in Muscogee County Georgia and had a population of 301,439 in the 2011 census. It is the third largest city and fourth largest metropolitan area in the state, and also the 123rd largest city in the United States. The city was ranked number 4 on the Best U.S. Cities to live by Best Life Magazine. With the expansion of the city, the need for a university saw the establishment of Columbus College, a two-year institution which would later grow into Columbus State University, now a comprehensive center of higher learning. The city would consolidate city and county governments in 1971 and become the first of its kind in Georgia (and one of only 16 in the U.S. at the time). As the city has turned from its initial industry of textiles, it has provided a home for other prominent industries including the headquarters for Aflac, Synovus, TSYS and Carmike Cinemas.
With the revitalization of the Springer Opera House and its subsequent designation as the State Theatre of Georgia, a historic preservation movement was sparked and various historic districts were established in and around downtown. Large tracts of blighted areas were cleaned up and a modern Columbus Consolidated Government Center was constructed in the city center. A significant period of urban renewal and revitalization followed in the mid to late 1990s. With these improvements, residents and businesses began moving back to these formerly blighted areas. Examples of these municipal projects including the construction of a softball complex which hosted the 1996 Olympic softball competition, construction of the Chattahoochee RiverWalk along the Chattahoochee River, construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus, construction of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, the expansion of the Columbus Museum, and road improvements to include a new downtown bridge crossing the Chattahoochee River to Phenix City. During the late 1990s, commercial activity expanded north of downtown along the I-185 corridor.
During the 2000s, expansion and historic preservation was continuing throughout the city. An example of this is the revitalization of South Commons, an area which combines the 196 Olympic softball competition complex, A. J. McClung Memorial Stadium, Golden Park, the Columbus Civic Center, and the recently added Jonathan Hatcher Skateboard Park into a single complex area. Other additions to the city include the National Infantry Museum in South Columbus, located just outside the Fort Benning main gate.
Columbus has also established itself as a center for the fine and performing arts. RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2002, houses Columbus State University's music department. In 2002 Columbus State's art and drama departments moved to downtown locations. Such initiatives have provided Columbus with a cultural niche and with vibrant and modern architecture mixed among older brick facades.
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