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Plans move forward to designate Berry Building historic landmark

Real Estate - Commercial
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More renovations – and more residences – could soon be coming to Main Street.

Columbia developer Tom Prioreschi’s request to have the Berry Building at 1608 Main St. designated a historic landmark has received preliminary approval and will be reviewed at a Board of Zoning public hearing on May 17. The plan includes the addition of seven new second-story apartments that would keep a wave of downtown residential development building.

The Berry Building, located at the corner of Main and Taylor streets and first built in 1872, is one of the oldest on Main Street. Prioreschi, owner of Capitol Places, submitted a proposal to the city Design/Development Review Commission for its April 14 meeting detailing the planned renovations. Receiving historic landmark status would qualify the proposed project for tax breaks.

“We are very excited about that,” said Matt Kennell, CEO of City Center Partnership, a non-profit organization that promotes economic development for downtown Columbia. “The Berry building has been one of the first downtown residential projects in Columbia. The first phase was finished more than 10 years ago. It’s been very successful and remained basically fully occupied since built.”

Capitol Places purchased the Berry Building in 1999, and the Capitol Places II apartments opened for residency in 2001 at 1217 Taylor St. The new apartments would share the lobby, elevator, stairwells and hallways with the current residences.

If the proposal clears the May first reading, a second will take place in June.

“That block is just exploding this year,” Kennell said, pointing out the proposed conversion of the Army/Navy store at 1621 Main St. into a bowling alley and other nearby buildings being renovated as restaurants. “Historic tax credits make a lot of this possible, and you need to have an older building to qualify for that. Those buildings are in demand right now.”

The proposed renovations at 1608 Main also reflect a trend of making use of under-utilized second stories of existing storefronts, Kennell said.

The Berry Building renovations would also restore a brick façade partially exposed when large white marble panels were recently removed from the storefront and add three windows replicating those in place until 1941 alterations.

The building served several purposes until Joe B. Berry founded department store Berry’s On Main in 1940. That decade saw significant alterations to the storefronts, including the addition of marble expanses and plate glass windows.

In 1982, Berry’s On Main went out of business. In 1999, Capitol Places, which manages more than 150 apartments downtown, including in the Barringer and Tapp’s buildings and the Lofts at Lourie’s, purchased the building.

Two years later, Capitol Places II opened. According to capitolplaces.com, rents range from $820 for a studio to $1,545 for a three-bedroom unit.

Kennell said he expects the proposed apartments, in keeping with Capitol Places’ history, to market to a mix of young professionals and empty nesters – not college students.

“Those are people with real buying power,” he said. “That helps the shops.”

The many multi-family units, such as CanalSide Lofts in the Vista and Land Bank Lofts on Hampton Street, springing up downtown raise questions of oversaturating the market, but Kennell said the trend of wanting to live in the heart of the city in a pedestrian-friendly environment is only growing.

“We believe there is a demand,” he said. “We’re happy to see it continuing, and I think that the next phase of (Main Street) revitalization might even be more residential. The early years it was almost all commercial with some residential, but I think there’s a lot of traction now with residential.

“We’re just very pleased to have more people living on Main Street.”

Reach staff writer Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7543.

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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