COLUMBIA, SC — Stand anywhere on Gervais Street or Lady Street in the Vista and likely as not a building near you bears Ben Arnold’s stamp.
After the initial in-migration of artists to the old warehouse district, the 45-year-old Arnold, scion of the influential Arnold family, took the Vista to the next level.
Beginning with single buildings and vacant lots purchased over decades by his grandfather, Ben, and his father, Norman, Arnold introduced mixed-use development to the district. He combined offices, stores, entertainment venues, residences, bars and restaurants into single projects. It’s the type of development that now defines the Vista and has been adopted in other areas of the city such as Five Points, Main Street and in USC’s Innovista.
“We took on an area that was dangerous and underutilized and brought it back to life,” he said from his office in a renovated warehouse at 720 Lady St., surrounded by buildings he either leases or renovated and sold. “And we maintained the character (of the warehouse district). We just didn’t mow everything down.”
Beginning in 1995, Arnold created the first entertainment complex at 700 and 800 Gervais St. Today it houses Jillian’s nightclub, the Wet Willie bar and the Tsunami restaurant as well as nearly 83,000 square feet of office space housing the Paul Mitchell cosmetology school and salon and S.C. Bank & Trust.
Arnold then created the district’s first lofts-over-retail space at Vista Lofts, and its first condominium complex, the 90-unit Renaissance Plaza on Lady Street.
Arnold also renovated and developed the Lady Street buildings that house M Vista, the Wild Wing Café, and the Carolina Ale House, among others.
Since then, Arnold has branched out from development to construction under the umbrella of the Arnold Family Corp. The company has built apartment complexes Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia and myriad commercial projects throughout the Palmetto State, including a new marina, apartment complex and restaurant at Lake Murray called Marina Bay.
Arnold views the future of the Vista as bright but also much more urban, with new projects coming in at three to six stories.
“It’s going to go vertical because of a lack of vacant land,” he said.
Arnold added that as the city grows, leaders have to find a way to better connect the Vista with Innovista, Main Street, USC and the riverfront.
“That’s what will light this place up.”