The city of Columbia’s Design/Development Review Commission on Thursday gave preliminary approval to Bailey Bill designation for 1519 Sumter St., site of the former Powell Furniture building, continuing a trend of downtown revitalization via tax breaks.
The Bailey Bill, enacted in 1992, allows local governments to offer a property tax abatement to encourage the rehabilitation of properties classified as historic. Property tax assessments are fixed on a property’s fair market value prior to any renovations for up to 20 years.
Proposed renovations to the Sumter Street structure include removing exterior paint to reveal an original brick wall, roof repairs, and roof drainage. Renovations to the façade will include installing aluminum-clad windows and a new storefront. New skylights are proposed for the roof.
Constructed around 1929, the building first housed the Home Light and Power Company, and later the Delco Light and Power Company. Powell Furniture opened in the building in 1960.
Matt Kennell, CEO of City Center Partnership, spoke in favor of the Bailey Bill designation on Thursday, saying such status would help the revitalization of Columbia’s downtown Main Street area continue.
“This is a very important building,” Kennell told the committee. “It’s been vacant for at least 10 years.”
Last month, the Berry Building at 1608 Main St. received preliminary Bailey Bill approval. Columbia developer Tom Prioreschi submitted a proposal for renovations including the addition of seven new apartments.
Kennell told the Columbia Regional Business Report that the high cost of new construction makes renovating historic buildings that qualify for tax breaks an ongoing attractive option.
“Developers are literally scouring Columbia trying to find these buildings,” Kennell said. “Some are doing it just to take advantage of the tax credits and look for the tenants. Others are doing it for their own tenants.”
A wave of new construction will eventually be inevitable once the well of potential historic properties dries up, Kennell said, but until then, the Bailey Bill-spurred renovation trend shows no signs of slowing.
“We’re hoping, as these buildings are developed, that there will be a lot of street-level activity,” Kennell said. “Office space is welcome, but it’s really an opportunity to bring retail and restaurants to the area.”
Reach staff writer Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7543.