Palmetto Compress student housing project in Columbia headed to court

jwilkinson@thestate.comFebruary 15, 2013 

  • Student Housing Columbia has five dormitory-style projects being proposed that are aimed strictly at students. The Hub at Columbia: $40 million, 800 beds, in the old Palmetto Center tower on Main Street Monarch at USC: $60 million project, 600 beds, at Huger and Blossom streets Edwards Communities: $40 million, 800 beds, at the Palmetto Compress warehouse site on Blossom and Pulaski streets USC and a private partner: $35 million, 500-bed dorm combined with classroom space near the Colonial Life Arena Pulaski Square: $15 million, 249 beds, on Pendleton Street near the Amtrak station

A controversial plan to build a $40 million, 800-bed student housing complex that would require the razing of the historic Palmetto Compress warehouse is heading to court. Meanwhile, two other downtown student housing projects are moving forward amid a flurry of construction aimed at Columbia’s college students.

The city’s Design Development Review Commission deferred a rehearing of the Palmetto Compress project’s plan after preservationists filed suit Thursday saying the rehearing for developer Edwards Communities was granted improperly last month.

But the commission approved a $40 million renovation of the 21-story Palmetto Center building on Main Street that would house 800 students and a new $15 million project on Pendleton Street that would house 250 students near the Amtrak station.

The projects are among five proposed for downtown that would put about 3,000 more students living in the city’s core – not coincidentally the same number of students USC has added in the past few years.

“I guess we’ll find out if they all get built,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides development in the Vista. “Sometimes things get approved that don’t get built. We’ll just have to see.”

The commission deferred for one month a rehearing of the Palmetto Compress project so its attorneys can study an appeal filed in court by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation on the grounds that the rehearing was improperly granted. The commission in December voted down the project by Ohio-based Edwards Communities but granted it a rehearing in January after a baffling set of five consecutive votes.

Commission member Doris Hildebrand each time changed her vote to defeat motions for and against the rehearing, leaving the commission at a stalemate. Then on the fifth motion, she voted to grant the rehearing, even though in her comments she said she opposed the project because it would mean the demolition of the warehouse.

Edwards Communities and the warehouse’s owners in January filed an appeal of the December denial.

Meanwhile the commission:

•  Green-lighted the Palmetto Center project, called The Hub of Columbia, after the developers dialed back a colorful new paint job for the landmark Main Street building. Architects for Chicago-based Core Campus ditched colorful panels that some detractors claimed looked like polka dots and went with a more understated palate of cream and gray horizontal bands. The project should be complete by fall 2014, developers said.

•  Approved the Pendleton Street project, called Pulaski Square. The four-story complex also should be completed by fall 2014, said representatives of developers The Woda Group, an Ohio-based company with offices in Louisville, Savannah and Maryland.

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