1. What is The District and what does it do? The District is a live–work–play neighborhood that sparks the creative, the eclectic and the local. We’re a constantly adapting community of people, with tradition blending harmoniously with technology and the latest trends in fashion, food and the arts. The Downtown CID staffs a full-time executive director, an assistant executive director and an assistant director of outreach who work with a board and foster collaboration among various organizations within the city. We pursue collaborative efforts and build coalitions with community organizations, public agencies, political leaders, individual constituents and others in order to further CID goals.


  1. What’s the next big event happening in The District? We embrace the seasons and have great events year-round, like festivals, farmers markets, tailgating and games. We have annual events, such as Living Windows, which become family traditions and kick off the holiday season. We also continuously have new events that are created. You can always find something to try. The next big event is the annual True/False Film Festival in early March.


  1. How does the tourism industry impact our community? The District thrives on tourists visiting downtown for a day trip or extended stay. Our close proximity to MU, Stephens and Columbia College allows our business community to cater to customers visiting for a campus or athletic event.


  1. How has The District improved Columbia’s downtown? Our goal as a Downtown CID is to improve the customer experience within The District. We provide marketing and branding for The District, which includes a website, social media campaign, signature events and strategic media buys to drive traffic and awareness of downtown. We have a strong working relationship with the city and strive to address operational issues such as parking, waste management and safety within our downtown. We have made the customer shopping experience and the cleanliness of downtown a top priority. We have partnered with Block By Block as a contracted janitorial vendor to enhance the downtown environment, performing duties such as sidewalk sweeping, power washing, graffiti removal and alley clean up. Recent projects that we have led include increased alley lighting; a free Wi-Fi system; a stormwater management tree project; employee parking permit and reduced fare bus transit program; and holiday décor, complete with a magic tree. We also launched a recycling program for our downtown businesses, residents and consumers.


  1. What is The District’s next big goal and how do you plan to achieve it? The Gateways, which is a series of iconic downtown landmarks that will enhance our civic identity and let visitors know they’ve arrived in The District. This exciting project will help define the physical boundaries of The District and capture our active and artistic personality. The Gateways project represents an innovative public-private partnership that will be the largest art initiative in our city’s history. The goals are to create four gateways into downtown that define the area, draw people to The District, and further our brand. Elements include signage, landscaping, creative lighting and artwork, as well as a pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. We plan to install the first three light hubs in late spring and launch a fundraising and grant writing campaign to raise money needed for the overall project.


  1. What can Columbia do to better care for our tourists? Our visitors need to be able to easily find their way around Columbia and feel welcomed by our business community. We need to continuously strive to meet the needs of our guests, such as clear directions for parking or something as basic as public restrooms downtown. The CVB also offers an excellent training program, a certified tourism ambassador class, which is beneficial for anyone serving tourists.


FUN FACT: Essing runs — a lot. She’s completed a marathon, more than a dozen half-marathons, a multitude of 5Ks and a Tough Mudder.

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