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Bigger skyline, more business? New tax break plan increases hope for big investment in and around Columbia

Published: Jul. 30, 2019 at 9:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Could Columbia and Richland County see a bigger skyline and a faster answer to adding big businesses to otherwise empty plots of land?

City and county officials think so, and they believe a new tax incentive plan unveiled today is an answer.

Apartments, offices, hotels, they say, are all in the realm of possibilities of new business coming to Columbia and Richland County.

This morning at the convention center, city and county officials walked us through what that would look like.

The incentive includes an up to ten-year tax cut, of up to 50 percent for investments exceeding 30 million dollars.

Richland County Council Chairman Paul Livingston says this could take care of blighted, or empty properties.

"If you look at a lot of the current huge sites that are very blighted and empty and have been so for 20-30 years, simply because it has not been cost-effective for persons to develop those sites," Livingston said

“30 million dollars does represent a significant investment and that's what we want. If you're going to build a city, build a county in a thriving region, you want to attract the types of development you want. Not just what people want to bring in," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.

Residents who live near downtown like Tiffany Nettles say they are for the new plan.

“Living downtown we kind of expect certain things. You expect some foot traffic and kind of a louder lifestyle. Hear a lot of ambulances, and we’re right by Segra Park and that’s just kind of the life that we’re used to and the life that we’re comfortable and we’ve chosen and just bringing in more business will have more economic development and bring more things for us to do,” resident Tiffany Nettles said.

Some residents did have concerns about the crime that comes with growth, and their taxes going up. City officials say more taxpayers would lower the burden.

This move would increase funding into the city and county from these properties. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin adds that while huge public sector properties, like Fort Jackson and USC, bring in billions to the region they are not on the tax rolls.

Other areas that officials say could see growth is the Bull Street District.

City Councilman Howard Duvall says there are currently several projects underway in the city to build 5 to 6 story buildings that would take advantage of this incentive program, including one at Blossom and Huger, Gervais and Huger as well.

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