Buyer to pay $15 million for Bull St. Mental Health land

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An Upstate developer has agreed to buy 165 acres owned by the Department of Mental Health in downtown Columbia.

Bob Hughes of Greenville submitted a signed contract to the state agency late Thursday to buy the Bull Street property for $15 million, plus a portion of future profits. The contract says the payment can be made over seven years.

Most of the property has been vacated and up for sale for years. The fact that the property is finally under contract has sparked new optimism about the dramatic changes that could follow.

Mayor Steve Benjamin says the sale will change Columbia. He says it's the most significant development opportunity for the city in a generation.

Mental Health Commission attorney Mark Binkley says the agency's board has already approved the contract for the sale negotiated by agency lawyers and Hughes. The deal still requires court approval, as well as a review by the Budget and Control Board.

The City of Columbia would then work out a development agreement with Hughes. What follows, Hughes promises, will be a "world-class" residential, retail and business community.

The hospital was built in 1822 to provide care for South Carolina's mentally ill, and sprawls over 181 acres in the heart of Columbia. The property was developed long before the Civil War, but only a small portion of the property has the protection of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Developers say a number of the campus' more historic buildings will be preserved, likely including the domed Babcock Building. However, there is currently no specific plan as to which buildings will be saved.

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Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report. (492) AP Metadata apcategory: n apstatecode: scb dukey: SC Mental Health Land apkeyword: SC Mental Health Land hedline: Buyer to pay $15 million for Mental Health land Unique Key: Buyer to pay $15 million for Mental Health land Doc ID: D9K5KQHO1