New student housing project proposed for downtown Columbia

jwilkinson@thestate.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Another large student housing project is now planned for downtown Columbia – this one on Pendleton Street near the city’s Amtrak station.

Documents filed with the city’s Design, Development Review Commission show the development is 122 units with 249 beds situated in a single building on the two-acre parcel.

The new development, owned by WC Columbia LLC, is to be considered by the commission on Thursday. It is the latest in what has become a rental housing boom in Columbia from the river to the Vista to Olympia.

The boom is being fueled by growth at the University of South Carolina and changes in city codes to allow four-bedroom units marketed to students, according to Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides development in the Vista.

“There is a lot of activity all of a sudden,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance for a nearly 200-unit apartment complex in Olympia. The complex is planned for the parking lot of the Olympia and Granby mills, which were renovated into housing a decade ago by the same developer — PMC Property Group of Philadelphia.

Most of the units will be one-bedroom apartments geared to graduate students, but not a student housing project, per se.

The board unanimously allowed the four-story complex to be slightly taller and with slightly fewer parking spaces than code requires because the developers worked with neighborhood groups on important issues. Agreements included preserving views of the historic mills, turning green space on the lot with seven grand oaks into a park and adding three storefronts.

“They went about approaching the neighborhood in precisely the right manner,” said Richard Burts, owner of the 701 Whaley arts center located catty-cornered from the new development and himself a developer. “They made changes that cost them money … but will continue to make the area more vibrant.”

Bob Guild, president of the Granby Mill Village Neighborhood Association, said the three retail bays should attract a coffee shop and café to the village – retail that has been sought for years.

“It makes for a liveable, walkable community,” he said.

Also on tap for Thursday’s commission meeting:

•  A rehearing on a controversial $40 million, 800-bed student housing project on Blossom and Pulaski streets that was turned back in December because members thought it did not comply with the USC Innovista Design guidelines. The commission narrowly granted the rehearing to Ohio-based Edwards Communities because some board members thought the company was not given enough time to respond to opponents’ complaints.

•  A possible decision on a paint job for the 21-story Palmetto Center on Main Street, which a Chicago Company plans to turn into a $40 million, 800-bed student housing facility. Some commission members objected to the multicolored panels and white and gray stripes the company is proposing.

In addition to the those projects: Developer Ben Arnold is partnering with a Charlotte firm to build student housing on Blossom at Huger streets; USC is planning its own housing in the Colonial Life Arena parking lot; and Canalside on the Congaree River is doubling in size.

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