Columbia, SC — As a preservationist and adaptive reuse advocate, I was disturbed to read that Columbia zoning agreements provide protection for only five historic buildings on the S.C. State Hospital property. It would be a mistake to demolish buildings.
Columbians should heed the lessons learned by Charlestonians during the construction of the Charleston Place Hotel.
In 1981, a permit was issued to demolish many historic structures to make way for Charleston Place, even though there was no firm financial commitment in place. The buildings were taken down to the ground almost immediately — but the developer never delivered. The project sat for four years before Mayor Joe Riley was able to pull together a new development team and finish the project.
There are 18 buildings on the State Hospital property that easily could be adapted to contemporary use. The historic core should be maintained and improved, not demolished.
Destroying all but five buildings on this site would be a breach of faith with preservationists and taxpayers who deserve a more thoughtful approach to the redevelopment of this vitally important public property. None of these buildings should be touched by the developer until the financing is irrevocably in place — and 18 deserve to be saved, not just five.