Despite rough state, developer optimistic about renovating Babco - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Despite rough state, developer optimistic about renovating Babcock

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A popular Columbia landmark will see some major changes with some help for a development group from state lawmakers.

Recently, plans were unveiled to turn the Babcock building on Bull Street into a hotel. Behind plans headed up by attorney and developer Tony Gelderman, the Babcock building could see renovations that will both preserve it and even turn it into a spot for lodging near downtown Columbia. The massive building, according to plans, would hold 200 rooms for guests as well as a meeting space. It's a project that Gelderman is looking forward to taking on.

"We have a group of investors," Gelderman began, "that we feel if we can get the tax credit regime repaired if you will, make it more like Louisiana and Virginia and other states that have been very successful with historic restorations that we can get this project done. And yes, we think it's going to be a big boost for Columbia and we think it will be a good investment."

The tax credit that Gelderman was referring to is an income tax credit bill now pending in the South Carolina House. The bill, if it becomes law, would boost the tax credit for historic revitalization projects like Babcock. Gelderman says it has to pass for his investment group to move ahead with the large amount of work on Babcock.

"First, we've got to get all the debris out of the building," he said, "and we've got to remediate the asbestos, lead paint, and anything that's toxic and dangerous."

Gelderman says there are some significant problems with the building that could cost a great deal of money.

"And I like to say that the building is worth a negative $20 million dollars," Gelderman said. "And that's about what it's going to take to get the asbestos out, the lead paint, and restore the structure where it's actually collapsing in certain areas of the building. We have obsolete windows. It goes on and on and on. So it's $20 million dollars to get this building to a shell state."

Should the tax credit pass, Gelderman says construction could start early next year. He also points out that the renovating and reopening Babcock will create 350 construction jobs and about 245 positions for operations. If everything goes well, Gelderman is hoping to have the hotel ready for guests in 2016 around the same time the first pitch is thrown at the new Bull Street ballpark.

Gelderman may not have to wait long as the vote on the pending tax credit bill could come as soon as Wednesday. 

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