Palmetto Compress: A look inside the historic Columbia landmark

You have to get inside the Palmetto Compress Warehouse to really appreciate its size.

"It's literally this space repeated space after space," said Fred Delk. "There are 32 of them."

32 10,000-square foot caverns awaiting development.

"I expect it's going to be things like apartments, office uses, retail uses," Delk said.

Delk is with the Columbia Development Corporation has shown the Palmetto Compress Warehouse to at least 25 different developers in the past few months, following a controversial city council vote to buy the property for around $7 million.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Critics said the building was beyond use, pointing to issues like the floors that were sloped by design back when the building was built in 1918.

"A single worker could load up a bail of cotton and get it out by rolling it downhill," Delk said.

Delk said it will be a challenge for developers, but that an engineering assessment last year showed the building is stable and ready for work.

A handful of federal and state tax incentives await the winning proposal.
"What will happen here will ripple all around here," said Mike Bedenbaugh with the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation.

He said the building is perfectly placed blocks away from the future Darla Moore School of Business and the Vista in the heart of USC's development toward the Congaree River.

"In this country we're so used to assuming that because the paint's peeling and the wood is a little crooked that you have to tear it down and build something new, and unfortunately a lot of our historic buildings pay the price for that," Bedenbaugh said.

But the Compress building will survive. Bedenbaugh is anxious to see who'll pick up where the cotton left off.

Delk is confident the public investment will be justified.

"Remember people were saying that the Publix, the old confederate printing plant couldn't be reused, that it was a terrible building and needed to be torn down? Now it's very actively used," Delk said. "I expect the same thing to happen here."

Delk expects to have a handful of proposals in short order. Developers will have until September 18th to get them in. After that, Delk said a decision could be made within a month or two.

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