Columbia City Council passes Bull Street deal

The plan to develop the former home of the state's mental health hospital on Bull Street will move forward following a 4-2 vote from Columbia's City Council, paving the way for the housing and retail project.

It was the second and final hearing on the proposal that could pump more than $1 billion into the local economy.

Leading the charge to approval the deal between the city and Greenville developer Bob Hughes was Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who issued a strong warning about the deal during the meeting.

"This deal will die today if we don't move forward," said Benjamin. "That's just it. You might think it's bluffing, you make think as you please. This deal will die."

Over the last week, the city had made a number of changes to that agreement covering a range of issues from archaeological excavation to traffic, noise, and lighting around the project's proposed ball park.

The plan has also met resistance from other council members such as Leona Plaugh, who voted in favor to delay a second vote.

"It's a refinement process. We want this project to work. We want Bull Street to move forward. We want it to be the very best it can be," said Plaugh.

Plaugh also voted against the final reading, calling it a "sad day" for Columbia.

With the deal solidified, now the questions turn to how will the city pay for the several million dollars in investments needed to help kick start the project with Bob Hughes.

Hughes released a statement following the vote, praising Benjamin's "leadership" on the project.

"Now after years of work, we are excited to have an agreement that lets all of us work together as a team to transform Bull Street. Together, we can approach the marketplace and offer a Bull Street transformation that will improve the quality of life in all parts of the city with new investment, jobs and tax revenue," said Hughes.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.