Downtown Columbia’s ongoing facelift is continuing with the announcement of a partnership to oversee a $7.5 million renovation project at three historic properties.
Robert Lewis and Chris Rogers of Rogers, Lewis, Jackson, Mann and Quinn Attorneys at Law; Heather Mitchell and Randy Huth of Columbia architecture and design firm The Boudreaux Group; and a silent partner have formed Sumter, LLC. The group will work in conjunction with Columbia commercial real estate agency NAI Avant to rehabilitate and market the renovated buildings at 1519 Sumter St., 1222 Taylor St. and 1224 Taylor St., which will combine to offer 23,000 square feet of mixed-use space.
Lewis is an owner of the Sumter Street building, former home of Powell Furniture, which has secured project architect The Boudreaux Group as an anchor tenant. The firm will move into the second floor of the building in spring 2017, leaving 6,000 square feet of ground floor space available.
The Powell Furniture building was built in 1920 and has also housed the Home Light and Power Company, Jenkins Auto Parts Services and Sears. Renovations to the property, designated a historic landmark and thus eligible for tax credits, will begin later this month and include stripping gray surface paint to reveal a distinctive yellow brick façade and preservation of decorative stone work.
Renovations to 1222 Taylor St., former home of Rose-Talbert Paints, and 1224 Taylor St., former site of Western Auto, will begin in the first quarter of 2017. Those buildings are adjacent, while the old Powell Furniture Building is around the corner.
“By having the scale of a larger project, you can attract better tenants and a better mix of tenants rather than just doing a one-shot thing,” said Matt Kennell, CEO of City Center Partnership, a non-profit organization that promotes economic development in downtown Columbia. Kennell said by being marketed together, the buildings could potentially share parking or an outdoor space – perhaps a plaza with outdoor dining. “You can do that when you combine projects.”
The businesses involved in the project have a successful track record in similar work. In 2009, Lewis earned the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation. Mashburn Construction, recognized by the Palmetto Trust this year for its accomplishments in historic preservation, will oversee construction.
“Any time you have historic buildings that haven’t been used in a while, it becomes a very exciting project for the area,” Robert Lewis said in a release. “Once new retailers and businesses occupy these historic buildings, you will see a lot of activity and rehabilitation.”
NAI Avant senior broker Macon Lovelace will facilitate all additional tenant transactions.
“We have already received interest from multiple tenants even while we are still finalizing the redevelopment plans,” Lovelace said in a release.
The renovations, expected to be completed at the end of 2017, continue a trend of refurbishing historic downtown buildings. Plans are in motion to renovate the Berry Building at 1608 Main St., the former Army/Navy store at 1621 Main St. is being converted into a bowling alley, and the former Hennessy’s restaurant at 1649 Main St. is under contract.
“People like the real thing,” Kennell said. “People like to go into buildings that have character and personality. It’s created a whole new energy downtown, particularly at the street level. …. It’s just a really good thing for our city.”
While refurbishing of historic buildings is a thriving business, the revitalization of downtown is spreading past Main Street. Multi-family developments are being built in the Vista, and a proposed 15-story apartment building, to be called The Edge, at the corner of Assembly and Washington streets will be considered by the Columbia Design/Development Review Commission today.
“It’s becoming more than more Main Street,” Kennell said. “That’s a new trend, too, that we want to market and make people think bigger for the whole downtown - just like the Vista or Bull Street.”