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Growing downtown population drives Vista development

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Members of the 282nd Army Band at Fort Jackson perform during the 30th anniversary of Vista Lights in November. The event, which includes a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, serves as the annual kickoff to the holiday shopping season in downtown Columbia. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)Members of the 282nd Army Band at Fort Jackson perform during the 30th anniversary of Vista Lights in November. The event, which includes a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, serves as the annual kickoff to the holiday shopping season in downtown Columbia. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)

By C. Grant Jackson
colanews@scbiznews.com
Published Feb. 12, 2016

Vista Guild and city development officials have 700 million reasons for you to love the Congaree Vista. The number refers to the $700 million in investment that is pouring into the district bordered by Elmwood, Assembly and Whaley streets and the Congaree River.

Officials hosted a media briefing Thursday focused on the arts and entertainment district, officially known as the Congaree Vista. Meredith Atkinson, the Vista Guild’s new executive director – on the job about six months – pointed out that the Vista celebrated the 30th anniversary of Vista Lights, the annual holiday event, this past Christmas, and the upcoming 25th annual Artista Vista celebration is set for this coming April. The S.C. Arts Commission also recently named the Vista an official SC Cultural District.

Meredith AtkinsonAtkinson
Growth in the Vista is just part of what is happening in the Columbia’s city center. The Columbia Development Corporation puts the anticipated development for 2013-2017 in the city center – which includes the Vista, Main Street, Five Points and the new Commons at Bull Street development – at $979.8 million, just short of $1 billion.

But much of the focus and buzz lately has been on the Vista. Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which assists economic development in the Vista, said other significant announcements are coming soon, including a $100 million major hotel development on the Kline Iron & Steel property at the corner of Gervais and Huger streets, one of the Vista’s signature intersections.

Much of the investment is being driven by population growth fueled by an explosion of residential development in the City Center. Columbia Development Corporation puts the residential investment in the City Center at $577.5 million. That residential growth is also a major driver of non-residential growth of $402.3 million.

And while much of the residential growth is being driven by the influx of student housing projects, officials are very quick to point out that it is not all student housing. A number of significant market rate residential projects have been announced or are under construction. One of the biggest and most significant is in the Vista. The $45 million 200 market-rate apartments and mixed-use development at the Palmetto Compress warehouse is slated to open n June, Delk said. The building was targeted to be torn down for a student-housing development before the city and developers stepped in and created the historic redevelopment project.

Delk noted that about two years ago 1,200 people were living downtown. That number has now grown to 2,000 and Delk said he sees as many as 8,000 to 10,000 people living in the Vista and Main Street districts in a few years.

That population growth will only spur more development, especially for retail and consumer services.

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