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Downtown high-rise apartment project clears last hurdle

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An agreement to raze a century-old building that was once part of Columbia’s African-American business district has cleared the way for construction of a 15-story apartment building on Assembly Street next to the Richland Library.

A rendering of "The Edge" project facing East. (Photo/Provided)The residential complex, called The Edge, would be at 1401 Assembly St., and replace an existing parking lot and two-story building built in 1914 that had been the location of a beauty salon and barber shop. The project had been on hold for six months as various groups sought to preserve the building or have it moved to a nearby location.

“After consulting with the family that owns the property, and taking their wish to sell the property into account, the decision was reached that the best course of action would be to demolish the building and allow CRG (the developer) to move forward with The Edge project,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a statement released Thursday.

“The Edge is an exciting and unique $60 million multi-family development that will change the landscape of downtown Columbia. The CRG team has worked tirelessly to ensure their project is a good fit for Columbia, and it has my support as well as the support of the Design Development Review Committee (DDRC), the property owners and the community,” Benjamin added.

The Edge is a 355,000-square-foot apartment complex that will cater to the rising influx of residents and young professionals as well as university students looking to relocate downtown to be closer to the arts, entertainment, local offices and universities, the city press release said.

The release added that CRG plans to memorialize the building and the commercial district with a series of plaques and way-finding signs that commemorate locations of historical significance throughout the district.

“We appreciate Mayor Benjamin and city officials for providing a creative solution to commemorate the history that is such an important part of this city,” said Russ Caplin, managing director for CRG. “The Edge will be a prominent feature in the future of Columbia, and we will make every effort to preserve the history and legacy of those who have preceded us by contributing to the growth of this great city.

CRG, a full-service design-build real estate developer with offices in Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and California, submitted an informal proposal to the Columbia Design/Development Review Commission in May for feedback. Staff recommended preliminary approval for the site plan with some noted conditions, including a request for details about street lighting and a vehicular, pedestrian and cyclist traffic study.

A request for design certificate approval also resulted in a list of conditions to be addressed, including a recessing of a proposed amenity deck trellis so it is not visible from the street and more detailed information about the north façade of the building, which will be adjacent to the library plaza.  

The building at 1401 Assembly is one of a handful remaining from Columbia’s black business district and has drawn the interest of preservationists who wanted it incorporated into The Edge’s design plans.

While the developer found that possibility infeasible, it signaled a willingness to work with the city of Columbia to relocate the building. However, an agreement could not be reached.

The design commission had no purview over the structure, as it is not an historic landmark, and did not consider its fate in an August vote to approve the project.

Construction of The Edge is expected to start in late 2017 with a completion date of fall 2019.

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