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USC dorm partnership with Holder Properties points to similar projects

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By Chris Cox
ccox@scbiznews.com
Published Sept. 3, 2015 (From Aug. 14, 2015 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report)

It was only two years ago that the corner of Lincoln and Blossom streets was home to just another parking lot.

But since the University of South Carolina’s Board of Trustees officially approved a partnership in January 2014 with private developer Holder Properties, the parcel has transformed from merely a jungle of cars into 650 Lincoln, the latest student housing project.

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The first phase of 650 Lincoln, a student dorm involving Holder Properties and the University of South Carolina, has beds for 584 students. A 300-bed second phase is being built next door to the complex. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)
“I can tell you if this were not a public-private partnership,” USC president Harris Pastides said, “it would have gotten done eventually. But as (someone) told me a while ago, there would still be a hole in the ground.”

The Atlanta-based Holder Properties, which is also constructing a $25 million office building for USC’s Innovista research campus, proved to be the perfect partner. Procured by the university’s development foundation, the company’s swift and seamless build could ultimately pave the way for similar projects with private entities.

“It came together very quickly,” Pastides said. “It just shows that when you’ve got the private sector engaged with a great university you can do things on time and on budget. I think this is the first project that will lead to other future projects working with the private sector.”

The partnership works like this: the university leased the land to Holder, which footed the bill to construct the student housing and retail community. It will take most of the profit generated, though the school will take a 15% cut and receive annual rent.

USC had already been well aware of Holder’s reputation in the Columbia area. In addition to similar work done on the Adesso condominiums and Aspyre apartments, the company also constructed the Main & Gervais and Meridian office towers.

“We really hope to do more (with USC),” CEO John Holder said. “We couldn’t be happier with the relationships we’ve had. Everybody was so supportive when they could have just thrown in the towel and said, ‘Ah, forget it.’ They were great.”

The 584-bed facility features a mix of one-, two- and four-bedroom units. The $60 million project, marketed exclusively to USC’s undergraduate students, comes complete with private laundry, fully equipped kitchens, granite countertops, flat screen TV’s and Wi-Fi. A pool, fitness center, grills and a hammock area can also be found on the property.

The facility also includes 30,000 square feet of retail space, currently home to Berberitos, Jittery Joes, Tropical Smoothie and The Community Table, a full-service restaurant.

All first-phase beds are occupied for the fall and spring semesters – about 50% of the building will be home to Gamecocks student-athletes – as students began moving into their new homes on Aug. 8. A second phase, including 300 beds, a parking deck and additional retail space, is currently under construction and will begin pre-leasing this fall.

“It’s really great for the school,” Holder said. “The school has had this vision for a long time. Harris started with Innovista. For it to sort of come through, it’s amazing how excited they are about it. If they’re excited, the students are excited, we’re just baggage. We’re happy.”

Both phases will total more than 450,000 square feet. Designed by Ayers Saint Gross and contracted locally by New South Construction, the property will serve as a testing ground of sorts for any potential future projects.

“In addition to the obvious, what it looks like and the quality of the build, we’re going to look at what happens when the students are here relative to social behaviors,” Pastides said. “That’s still a test, something we need to evaluate. I think once a semester and the year is over, we’ll know if they’ve succeeded.

“But yes, I think we’ll keep going and rolling. That will make not only the people who build it but the people who manage it an even more trusted partner.”

650 Lincoln is one of two student housing complexes that opened this month, joining the 727-bed Greene Crossing on Pulaski Street. That project was constructed by Columbus, Ohio-based Edwards Development.

In addition, two traditional apartment complexes also opened this month. The 181-bed 612 Whaley was constructed by Philadelphia-based PMC Property Group, which also redeveloped the Olympia and Whaley textile mills and will do the same with the Palmetto Compress building, and the 120-bed Pulaski Square. The latter is located on Pulaski Street and was built by Columbus, Ohio-based Woda Construction.

At least six more developments remain in the works over the next two to three years.

“It’s not your little old USC or little old Columbia,” Pastides said. “As we know, growth can be good if growth is done well, if growth is done smartly. Growth not done well, not done smartly is not worth having. We pledge to our community that we will grow smartly and we will grow with you.”

Reach Chris Cox at 803-726-7545 or on Twitter @chrisbcox.

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