COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's not a trendy retail outlet or a luxury movie theater, but developers say the latest addition to Columbia's BullStreet Neighborhood is still cause for excitement.
The project has received critical federal and city approval to begin work to restore a portion of the Smith Branch Creek that was funneled decades ago into large culverts running under the former State Hospital campus.
The creek enters the 181-acre property on the southeastern edge or Calhoun Street side and exits near a small bridge on Colonial Drive.
City records indicate sections of the creek were no longer visible on an aerial photo taken in 1970.
Hughes Development Corporation President and project manager Robert Hughes said reconstruction or "daylighting" of the stream will restore water quality, wildlife, and biodiversity.
"For the majority of its time on the BullStreet property, it's in two 84 inch pipes underground. Part of our agreement with the city when we started is we want to bring that stream back to the surface, allow it to flow naturally. Allow the sun to hit it, which will improve water quality. Have it be an amenity in the park," Hughes said.
He also said that work will also reduce flooding problems in nearby neighborhoods.
When finished next year, the creek will be part of an effort to create a 20-acre public park, a small pond, and a recreational asset for residents and visitors.
A spokeswoman for the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, Rebecca Haynes says the project will "set a new standard for urban stream renewal" across the Southeast.
"This stream was forgotten. We put it underground. We forgot that it existed. We haven't taken care of it," Haynes said. "People are drawn to waterways. We're a river city. We like seeing the water that connects us."
Work on the creek restoration will start in a few weeks and be completed next year.