Columbia condo development back on track

Downtown’s CanalSide project has resumed after recession delays

jwilkinson@thestate.comJanuary 20, 2013 

— CanalSide, the residential development that set off downtown Columbia’s housing boom nearly a decade ago, is doubling in size after pausing for a redirection during the worst recession in a lifetime.

Charleston-based developer The Beach Company said it is building 199 apartments at the complex, which sits at the foot of Taylor Street next to the Columbia Canal.

The construction is helping drive the city’s most recent downtown housing boom, with student housing and apartments springing up on Main Street, the Vista, Olympia and the river.

“A few years ago, condos were the thing,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp. which encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other areas of downtown. “Now we are getting apartments because of the change (in) the economy and lending. But residential of any kind is really, really good.”

CanalSide developers originally planned a mix of apartments, condos and single-family homes when they started building on the site during the peak of the housing boom. At the time, Columbia was flush with condo projects and new housing developments. But the recession and its aftermath stymied the housing boom, leaving neighborhoods half-finished and high-end condos turned to rentals.

CanalSide began building its first phase of nearly 200 apartments in 2007, just as the recession started to settle in nationally. Building stopped there and slowed substantially throughout the region during the worst years of the recession and only recently has begun to start again.

The new CanalSide phase features upscale apartments with rents ranging from $890 a month for a studio to $1,650 for a two-story, two-bedroom unit. The Beach Company’s Dan Doyle said the new units being built – both small and large – offer a new mix of options compared to the mid-sized, midpriced units that were built in the first phase.

“We have price points both above and below,” he said. “We don’t want to compete with phase one. We want to complement it.”

The Beach Company is approved for 750 units on the site. The new phase will bring it just shy of 400 units. Company officials are not ruling out condos in the future, but they say the timing is not right now. They have scrapped plans for single-family homes, focusing on a higher-density use instead, Doyle said.

In addition to CanalSide, other developments planned for downtown include:

•  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 is set for completion in August 2014.

•  A new 200-unit apartment complex on about six acres of property in front of Granby Mill in Olympia by Philadelphia developer PMC, which also renovated the mill. The project would include 6,500 square feet of retail space. It is still in the planning stages.

•  A USC-proposed $35 million, 500-bed dorm combined with classroom space in the parking lots of the Colonial Life Arena, also still in plan development.

•  The Hub at Columbia by Chicago firm Core Campus. The up-to-$80 million project will 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.

•  Edwards Communities of Ohio also plans a large student housing development along 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 been granted a re-hearing.

The thousands of residents drawn to the new developments will be a boon to downtown’s restaurants, shops and clubs and will help boost growth in the Vista and the resurgence of Main Street, downtown boosters say.

The new CanalSide phase, scheduled for completion in May, also will increase use of the riverfront because it is connected to the Three Rivers Greenway.

“From day one, the riverfront has been our prime driver and we see that continuing,” Doyle said.

The new residents also are expected to help boost projects such as the completion of Coble Plaza at EdVenture and the expansion of the State Museum.

“It’s adding hundreds of people next to these parks and amenities,” Delk said.

Doyle said the apartment boom isn’t just a Columbia phenomenon. The Beach Company alone has 200 apartments going up in Columbia, 575 in the Charleston area, and another 1,500 planned in the Lowcountry, Savannah and Greenville.

“It’s global,” he said. “You look at any real estate forecast right now and there is a significant increase in the number of apartments under construction and in the pipeline. The demand is there.”

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