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Commission delays decision on proposed 15-story downtown apartment building

Real Estate - Residential
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After much discussion, the Columbia Design/Development Review Commission approved a site plan for a proposed 15-story apartment building at the corner of Assembly and Washington streets, but deferred approval of a certificate of design.

A subcommittee meeting wil be held on Monday to discuss the project, which is scheduled to be on the agenda for the regular Aug. 11 meeting. No formal action will be taken at Monday's meeting. 

Following a 10-minute recess to discuss the site plan during the July 14 meeting, the commission voted to approve the plan for the 355,000-square-foot, 305-unit high-rise adjacent to the Richland County Public Library. However, members voiced concern about the number of design questions that remained after a preliminary review of the project in May and voted to defer approval of a certificate of design to a work session with the applicants.

Specifically, the panel questioned the “monolithic” look of a large stucco wall of the building, to be called The Edge, and a one-story façade on the building’s west side that several members felt required more height. It was also noted that a trellis on the building’s proposed amenity deck remained visible from the street after preliminary commission comments suggested recessing the feature.

A street view of the southwest corner of the proposed 15-story apartment building, The Edge, to be located at the corner of Assembly and Washington streets. (Rendering/Provided)Commission member Tom Savory said he was excited about the project, but that the current design plans did not contain the necessary level of detail.

Public discussion of the site and design plans drew comments from proponents and opponents, largely focused on the potential relocation of an existing building at 1401 Assembly St. The two-story brick building, built in 1914, has been the site of several businesses, most recently a barber shop, and is one of a handful of structures remaining from Columbia’s black business district.

Current plans call for the removal of the building. The city of Columbia has indicated a willingness to help The Edge developer Clayco Realty Group relocate the building, but Robin Waites, executive director  of Historic Columbia, said those words need to be backed up with detailed plans.

“If Clayco and the city are committed to the relocation of the structure, stating that intention is not enough,” Waites said.

The commission does not have purview over the fate of the building, and Jay Case, one of Clayco’s principals, pointed out that the Chicago-based company does not own a site a block away that has been targeted as a potential relocation site.

“We’re certainly ready to contribute to the process, but I just wanted to be clear that we are not fully in control,” Case said.

Several speakers suggested incorporating the building into the high-rise’s design plans, including the daughter of Joseph Stroy, the owner of Stroy’s Barber & Hair Styling, formerly located at 1401 Assembly, and a community civil rights leader. Clayco’s Russ Caplin said during a previous commission meeting that the developer considered that approach before finding it unfeasible and settling on the relocation plan.

Matt Kennell, CEO of Center City Partnership, spoke in favor of the relocation. Kennell cited a similar solution employed when the historic Big Apple building was moved three blocks from its original downtown location at 1138 Park St. in 1984 to accommodate the expansion of First Citizens Bank.

“We have a model for that, and I’d encourage consideration of the same type of relocation for this building, and its preservation, so we can enjoy it for generations to come,” Kennell said.

The $70 million project will require final design approval by the panel, which did not set a date for the work session.

 View The Edge design plan at the commission website.  

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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