Slow action by State Legislature hinders progress on Babcock ren - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Potential Babcock developer disappointed legislature fails to address bill

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Over the years, the Babcock building on Bull Street has suffered damage from years of neglect.

Developer Tony Gelderman believes he can revitalize the building making it beneficial for Columbia in just a couple of years. But his plans hit a major pothole when the House failed to address a bill that would have helped get it started.

"We can get the project done," Gelderman said. "And, yes, we think it's going to be a big boost for Columbia and we think it will be a good investment."

Gelderman noted that the renovations to remove asbestos and lead paint as well as stabilize the building would take about $20 million and further renovations could costs tens of millions more.  He believes that kind of investment needs an accelerated schedule of tax credits. That's why Gelderman was working with state lawmakers to amend legislation which looks at rehabbing abandoned buildings.

However, that process has not moved as quickly as developers would like.

The House spent time Wednesday debating budget amendments, rural hospital issues and saying their goodbyes to members that are leaving. As for the abandoned buildings measure, it sat at the bottom of the calendar and never got addressed.

"We are disappointed that the bill got into the logjam of legislation during the final days of the legislative session," said Gelderman in a statement Thursday. "While we wish we could have started sooner, progress was made as we talked with legislators and explained why the state should be a partner in converting old historic buildings into useful buildings that generate new jobs and taxes."

"Projects unfortunately always seem to get drug out," Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R-Richland) said Wednesday. "I'd love to get this bill a second reading today. I just don't know that we're going to be able to."

Richland Democrat James Smith sided with Finlay to get something passed that might encourage Gelderman's group to move forward with plans, but the session ended without addressing the bill.

"The Babcock building will not be redeveloped without some sort of incentives to do that," Smith said. "It's just too---it's just not economically viable to do it. And so, whether that gets done today or this week or in a year from now that building will continue to stay the eyesore, the public health hazard that it is until we step forward with something that makes sense."

"In the weeks ahead, our team will examine the situation to determine where we go from here," said the statement from Gelderman. "We continue to be impressed with and excited about the city's vision of Bull Street development.

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