200-unit apartment complex planned for Olympia

jwilkinson@thestate.comJanuary 8, 2013 

A Philadelphia developer who renovated the Olympia and Granby Mills wants to build more housing in the area — building on what is shaping up as a new downtown housing boom in Columbia.

PMC Property Group on Monday received zoning approval for a new 200-unit apartment complex on about six acres of property in front of Granby Mill, which itself was renovated into apartments about a decade ago. The project also would include 6,500 square feet of retail space.

The new apartments – mostly one and two bedroom units — would be built in the large parking lot at the corner of Whaley Street and Olympia Avenue, catty-cornered from the 701 Whaley arts center. Green space and large trees in the northeast corner of the lot would remain as a park, company officials said.

The complex would be geared “to a different type of tenant” than the dedicated student housing in the mills or in a number of new student housing complexes planned for downtown around the University of South Carolina, attorney Gary Morris told planning commission members.

PMC’s Dan Rothschild said the Olympia complex would appeal to students because of its proximity to USC, “but would be for everyone.” He said the company hopes to complete the project in about 12 months.

The complex continues what promises to be a new boom in downtown residential development. It would be the fifth housing project to be announced in recent months around the university, which if built would accommodate about 2,500 students. The other projects are:

•  The Hub at Columbia by Chicago firm Core Campus. The up-to-$80 million project would provide housing for about 800 students in the 21-story Palmetto Center, a former office building. That project is expected to be completed in August 2014.

•  Monarch at USC, by Charlotte-based Monarch Ventures. The $60 million project on a vacant site at Huger and Blossom streets will be home to 600 students. It also is set for completion in August 2014.

•  Edwards Communities of Ohio also plans a large student housing development on Blossom Street, adjacent to the Monarch project. However, plans for the 800-bed, $40 million complex were turned back by the city’s design board last month for not complying with USC’s Innovista Design Guidelines. Developers have asked for a re-hearing.

•  USC also is considering a $35 million, 500-bed dorm combined with classroom space in the parking lots of the Colonial Life Arena.

PMC Property Group’s founder Ron Caplan has built downtown residential developments in such cities as Hartford and New Haven, Conn.; Miami, Fla.; Baltimore, Md.; and Richmond, Va. In 2005 and 2006 he renovated the historic Granby and Olympia Mills into loft apartments.

The new project received a thumbs-up from the Olympia and Granby neighborhood associations.

“It will be a fine addition that will (preserve) the public space,” said Olympia and Granby spokesman Bob Guild, referring to the large area to be left as a park.

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