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Benjamin expects more construction to start soon at Bull Street

Chuck Crumbo
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Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said redevelopment of the state hospital campus on Bull Street is moving along. The project’s centerpiece, Spirit Communications Park (background), opened in April and is home for the Columbia Fireflies baseball team. (Photo/Jeff Blake)

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said he expects construction on the next phase of the Commons at BullStreet – a proposed mix of residential and retail space – could begin soon.

“I believe as soon as this year, maybe this summer, we’ll actually be seeing dirt moving,” Benjamin said at a recent Power Breakfast session at the Columbia Marriott hosted by the Columbia Regional Business Report.

Benjamin noted that developers have announced plans to build 414,000 square feet of retail space for shops and restaurants, plus apartments, a hotel and offices. Also, plans have been submitted for a student housing complex between Gregg and Barnwell streets at Calhoun Street by Atlanta developer Haven Campus Communities.

The Bull Street project, headed by Hughes Development Corp. of Greenville, is “well-ahead” of schedule, Benjamin said.

The $37 million Spirit Communications Park is now home to the Columbia Fireflies pro baseball team and has been the site of a number of community events. Additionally, the Ogletree Deakins law firm has moved into offices in the four-story, 85,000-square-foot First Base Building, and workers are restoring the Parker Annex, the Bakery, and Ensor Building on the campus.

Although there’s a projected 20-year buildout for Bull Street, Benjamin reported 58% of the former state hospital property is either under development or under contract.

The plans represent about $500 million in private and public investment, developers said. When completed, the development is expected to total about $1 billion.

“Lots of great things are happening there,” Benjamin said. “It’s important to know that while all that’s happening on Bull Street, the rest of downtown is on fire.”

The mayor noted new restaurants, shops, hotels and businesses are opening on Main Street and in the Vista, and that student dorms and apartment complexes are being built near the University of South Carolina campus.

“We’ve found ways to commercialize and monetize the growth of the University of South Carolina by the tune of $350 million of private-sector student housing coming onto the tax rolls,” Benjamin said. “Our goal is to try and add more and more property to the tax rolls. And then as we grow, try and give back something to our citizens, who I believe pay too much in taxes.”

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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