Tuesday letters: City scared off other developers

July 9, 2013 

The Babcock Building on the S.C. Department of Mental Health campus along Bull Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.


— In the year between the Department of Mental Health’s decision to sell the 181-acre Bull Street property and the Columbia City Council’s decision not to approve a design overlay, the Palmetto Trust worked hard to attract developers who could handle such a large parcel that included half a million square feet of historic space.

The Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis., was just one of those developers. It knew that projects this big require community leadership that believes in its own goals. Having standards of development that create a road map for all to follow is imperative.

When project manager David Vos saw the overlay plan approved by the Design Development Review Commission and the Planning Commission, he came to look at the property. When the city rejected the overlay, he left, and we lost a viable partner that could have taken the lead on this four years ago.

So it’s distressing that the revisionist history of “we’ve tried this for 10 years” keeps popping up.

What has been happening for 10 years is that good people in Columbia with vision and commitment have been trying to obtain a consensus for a plan that compels development partners to buy into and deliver the tools to enact it.

Unfortunately, we only got fear: fear Mental Health won’t get enough money and fear the city has to settle for whatever it can get. That fear is what stalled progress for the past five years, and it’s what is creating the climate we find ourselves in today.

Michael Bedenbaugh

Executive Director

Palmetto Trust for Historic



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