Columbia's cotton warehouse may soon meet a wrecking ball

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For nearly a hundred years the Palmetto Compress building has survived as a huge relic of Columbia's old cotton business.

"Most of the buildings associated with that business have been demolished, this is the only one in this cotton district that is still standing," said Robin Waites of Historic Columbia.

Waites wants new life for the cotton warehouse, which is now used for storing more modern wares. Under contract with an Ohio-based developer, the building could soon be replaced by student housing.

Waites has started a Facebook group to encourage council to designate the warehouse as a local landmark that would slow the process of tearing it down.

"I think when you've got a structure as large and iconic as this, you're going to have a lot of folks in the community who're interested in seeing it reused," said Waites.

Others, including the building's owner and the developer, have said in the past that trying to save the building doesn't make financial sense.

Mayor Steve Benjamin originally applied to have the building listed as a historic landmark, but recently reversed himself. After touring the building, he agreed that renovation was not economically feasible.

Its unique sloped floors and age are challenges, but Columbia architect Dale Marshall says developers faced similar challenges in other parts of the Vista like with the old Confederate Printing Plant, which is now a Publix.

"I think when you've got a building like this and it's an integral part of the neighborhood the standard should be a higher standard than what could we get from the dirt," said Marshall. "Because if we took that approach the whole Vista wouldn't be here as it is now."

"These are important buildings that tell an important story," Waites said. "Without them that story disappears."

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