COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Millwood Avenue is one step closer to becoming the future home of a Starbucks franchise after the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special exception permit allowing a drive-thru in the development plan.
The proposal offers a development complete with a Starbucks in the 3000 block of Millwood Avenue, just up the street from Dreher High School. In doing so, several local businesses, including the Birdhouse, Revente’s Second Chances, Columbia’s Cleaners, Ron’s on Millwood, Groomingdale’s and Koru Group Fitness.
The businesses are all leased by the same landlord, who owns the property and is looking to sell, according to several business owners. Most said they plan to relocate if they are forced to close, but remain open while talks continue with the city about future development.
On Tuesday, the Board of Zoning Appeals held a public hearing about the development, giving developers a chance to present their design and community members voiced both their support and concerns.
Developers said as part of the project, a traffic study was conducted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation and did not indicate any potential hazards with the addition of the Starbucks location. Attorney Robert Fuller said it would increase visibility for drivers on nearby Carlisle and Butler Streets.
“I suspect they have never been at this intersection in rush hour with people coming from East Columbia driving 50 miles an hour through Dreher’s school zone and continue the Millwood 500 all the way down to Gervais Street,” said Jay Bender, who lives in a nearby neighborhood.
Other residents also voiced concerns over traffic and pedestrian safety, pointing to the high number of cars traveling Millwood Avenue daily.
“We’re going to be the ones visiting that as well, that property, and we just want it to be thoughtful and considerate of the neighborhood,” said Lee Ann Kornegay.
“We would love to have a Starbucks, we would love to have more development and more thoughtful development all up and down Millwood,” said Martha Fowler. “ I have serious concerns about where you have four streets all coming into one corner.”
Frances Miller, who owns Blum Coffee not far from the projected site, encouraged board members to consider the effect a national chain will have on local small businesses.
“Please remember your local businesses,” she said. “When you add a chain store anywhere within a mile of local businesses, you’re killing us a little bit.”
Another community member, Fred Easley, is encouraged by the development and encouraged the board to act on the opportunity.
“Honest to goodness we could not pay people to come to Millwood, we could not,” said Easley. “Now we have an opportunity for Starbucks and you know…when Starbucks comes in, more people will follow and we’ll see that development come along.”
The special exception permit is the first step in a lengthy process of getting all the permits in place necessary to move forward with the development and ultimately begin demolition. The board voted 5 to 1 in favor of granting the permit. The one board member who voted against it stated concerns about the effects of exhaust coming from cars idling in the drive-thru on nearby residential areas.
Developers said they plan to have an eight-foot fence along with the drive-thru and at least a 15-foot buffer between the property and surrounding residential areas.