The old Varsity restaurant to be demolished - - Columbia, South Carolina |

The old Varsity restaurant to be demolished

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More work is about to begin aimed at reviving Columbia's North Main Street corridor. And it means at least some of the abandoned buildings have to go.

The latest eyesore on the list to be demolished: the old Varsity restaurant building.

The lighting, sidewalks and roadway have undergone significant upgrades along Columbia's North Main Street over the past decade.

City officials had hoped those improvements would spark new commercial activity.

But there are not many signs of major investment and still dozens of vacant or abandoned parcels between Elmwood Avenue and Interstate 20.

City leaders continue to press for at least small improvements.

One in the 2700 block of North Main where the city now plans to demolish the building once home to the Varsity Restaurant.

"This has been a long process," Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said. " We've been to court with the owners of this property. We tried everything we could to work with them. It is not a desire to tear down any building. We want everything to be productive. But in this case, it was just not a choice. We've issued somewhere around 19 citations just on this building alone."

The move hailed today by neighbors in the surrounding Cottontown community.

"We've talked to the owners; we've gone to court with the city in terms of getting something done," said neighborhood leader Ellen Cooper. "And this is hindering our neighborhood with the position that the board of Cottontown took."

Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis said the building has been an eyesore over the years.

"It's been a deterrent to commercial and other economic development," Davis said. "It has also served as a safety hazard to the surrounding communities and the neighborhood."

The city has another program underway aimed at improving the corridor's cosmetic appeal.

Mayor Steve Benjamin remains optimistic North Main neighborhoods will eventually benefit.

There's great things happening here. People are flocking back to the urban core, flocking back to the inner city and projects like this will only hasten that development."

City officials say the demolition is expected to start within 30 days.

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