New Blossom and Huger student housing plan goes before Columbia design board

ccope@thestate.comAugust 6, 2013 

A rendering of the proposed student housing project from 1. Huger Street view 2. Pulaski Street view 3. Wheat Street view 4. Blossom Street view

HANDOUT — Kitchen & Associates

  • The project would:

    • Be four and five stories at a key city gateway

    • Offer nearly 600 beds

    • Include a garage, cafe, pool, fitness center and two internal courtyards

  • If you go

    What: Design Development Review Commission

    When: 4 p.m. Thursday

    Where: Eau Claire Print Building, 3907 Ensor Ave. at Monticello Road

A Columbia developer will present new plans for a nearly 600-bed student housing project at the intersection of Huger and Blossom streets to a Columbia design review board on Thursday.

Ben Arnold’s proposed four- and five-story complex would have a mix of facades, including stucco finish, composite panel, brick veneer and corrugated metal. The plan calls for a parking garage, cafe, pool, fitness center and two internal courtyards.

The project, which would be located at one of Columbia’s key entryways, is one of four student housing complexes approved or proposed for downtown in what is considered a student housing boom.

“It’s really going to change the dynamics of the Vista,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp.

The project would be on about 4 acres of land. A parking garage would provide all of the required parking and bicycle spaces. There also would be limited on-street parking on Wheat and Pulaski streets.

“That’s setting the template for future city-center density and development,” Delk said.

Arnold appeared before the design board earlier with a project on that site, presenting a plan with then-development partner Monarch Ventures of Charlotte. Arnold is now partnering with Kitchen & Associates, of New Jersey.

Arnold declined to comment about the new plans. Efforts to reach Monarch Ventures and Kitchen & Associates for comment were unsuccessful.

But the latest renderings show 108 four-bedroom units, seven three-bedroom units, 69 two-bedroom units and seven one-bedroom units ringed around two internal courtyards.

Other student housing projects planned for the city core include:

The former Palmetto Center, a 21-story office building on Main Street, which is being renovated to house about 800 students.

• A smaller, 249-bed complex, approved for Pendleton and Pulaski streets, near the Amtrak station.

• And USC is planning to put student housing behind the Carolina Coliseum, near the new Darla Moore School of Business.

An Ohio development firm had planned a student housing project adjacent to Arnold’s, on the site of the Palmetto Compress warehouse. However, Edwards Communities pulled out when the city agreed to purchase the building to keep it from being demolished. Proposals for adaptive reuse of Palmetto Compress are welcome, including those involving student housing, Delk said.

The flood of student housing into the Vista is a stark contrast to the original plans for the riverfront Innovista district, which included research space, public partnerships and commercial and office development, he said. Condos also have long been part of the plan.

“What we’re seeing is a real transformation of the original Innovista plan,” Delk said.

The Congaree Vista Guild, which represents businesses in the area, has not crafted an official letter taking a position on the development at Blossom and Huger streets, executive director Sarah Lewis wrote in an email.

“We certainly are in favor of student housing in the Vista and believe it will assist in helping the Vista restaurants and retail thrive,” she wrote.

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