COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There could be a breakthrough for the plan to develop Columbia's Bull Street property. It centers on one of the city's oldest and most prominent historical structures.
We are talking about what we've been referring to for the last six months as Bull Street Common. But, as we reported three weeks ago, there continues to be some uncertainty about the official title of this development.
We know for sure that these 165 acres include the new Spirit Communications Park, soon to be home of the Columbia Fireflies Single-A baseball team. When the team takes to the field for the first time in April, players and fans will be able to look out over the right field wall and see a portion of the Babcock Building. The oldest section of that huge building dates back to 1857.
Much of the entire structure is in bad shape and has posed a major challenge to redevelopment efforts on the former State Hospital campus for years.
But we're now told Babcock is under contract with a company that has extensive experience with historical properties and that company has plans to build apartments. As we've often said, that won't be easy because it is an enormous building in need of major rehabilitation.
Rep. James Smith worked on legislation to provide tax incentives to save valuable older buildings.
By passing incentive programs that we put together it was some acknowledgment that the state hasn't done its job to keep this building up," Smith said. "And it's also a critical part of the redevelopment of that whole Bull Street area. It is the iconic piece of architecture there. The center piece if you will, coming in there. And I think most everyone in the community that I've talked to expects to see that as a centerpiece to the ultimate redevelopment of the area."
The name of the company proposing the apartments has not been revealed. It does not appear to be the same developer who had strong interest last year in turning Babcock into a 200-room hotel. That prospective investor, Tony Gelderman of New Orleans, told WIS in May 2014 it would take at least $20 million to rehab the building, which among other things, has asbestos and lead paint problems as well as significant structural issues.
As for the name of the entire Bull Street project, we have another indication now from the Miami-based Lennar Commercial company that it is marketing the location to retailers and residential development as The Commons at Bull Street.
There is however, still signage on the property referring to Bull Street Common.