COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In late 2010, Upstate developer Robert Hughes put a massive plot of land on Bull Street under contract for $15 million with the hope of creating a new retail and residential destination in downtown Columbia.
A couple of years later, Columbia City Council voted 5-1 to approve Hughes' vision for the sprawling development on the former 165-acre South Carolina State Hospital campus.
In early 2014, in a somewhat controversial decision, council voted 4-3 to use $29 million in public money to fund a baseball stadium on the property. That public portion of funding later rose to $30 million. The city has also pledged millions in infrastructure improvements on the property.
Now, almost three years later, Spirit Communications Park and the First Base Building stand amongst the ruins of campus.
Just last week, a luxury theater that had announced plans to build at BullStreet pulled out. The city and developers, however, said that announcement was not a setback and that they are already in talks with other theater chains.
That announcement led to even more public doubt about the project.
William Mcneely wrote on Facebook: "the city and the residents of [Columbia] are going to own that property before long as it will be bankrupt."
Carl Gullage wrote: "just another example in the NEVER ENDING stream of local government BOONDOGGLES..."
We've seen the site plans and the fancy renderings of the property. Other than a law firm, a credit union, education and event space and the announcement of a tech firm, we haven't seen much in the way of retail, residential and restaurants.
Hughes said on Tuesday of this week in a press release announcing work had begun on one of the historic buildings on the property that "As is consistent with our development strategy, our tenants make their own announcements. When restaurant and office tenants are ready to announce, they will do so on a schedule that is optimal for them."
The WIS editorial board recognizes build-out for the project was to take place over a 20-year period, however, it's time for announcements to give taxpayers piece of mind that the award-winning Spirit Communications Park will have some neighbors soon.
Hughes Development Corporation has noted that the project is ahead of schedule with at least half of the now 181-acre property under contract.
Some retail announcements and shovels in the dirt sure would show some progress.
That's my take, what's yours?