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Downtown hotel wins approval despite opposition

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Plans for a new seven-story hotel in the Vista moved closer to becoming a reality after approval by the City of Columbia’s Design/Development Review Commission at its July 21 meeting.

The commission unanimously approved plans for the construction of a combined Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel by Hilton on an L-shaped lot at Gervais and Williams streets in the Vista despite opposition voiced at the meeting.

Lexington-based architect Craig Otto is designing the project, and construction would be done by Florence-based Naman Hotels. The 249-room hotel would include an outdoor patio space which would feature an outdoor kitchen, fire pits and seating areas. Plans also call for a 430-space parking lot on the property, which would include space for artists’ studios on its ground floor.

At the meeting, support for the hotel was expressed in a letter from the Congaree Vista Commercial Property Owners’ Association, whose members say the hotel will bring needed additional accommodations for the Vista and additional business to the area.

Opposition to the hotel came from residents of the nearby City Club Townhomes who fear that the hotel will overwhelm the area and claim that the proposed structure does not meet existing guidelines for the Vista and Innovista districts.

The project also was opposed by the Girl Scouts of South Carolina because of traffic and safety concerns. The Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center, located at the corner of Williams and Senate streets, regularly attracts Girl Scouts from around the state who take part in camps and other events and walk to attractions in downtown Columbia.

“This project would hinder the walkability of the Vista,” said Lora L. Tucker, CEO of the Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands.

The proposal now must be approved by the City of Columbia Planning Commission, which initially deferred a decision on the project at its meeting in May.

Reach Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.

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