COLUMBIA, SC — A city design board gave formal approval to a massive private student housing project in downtown Columbia and informally welcomed USC’s plans for another.
The Design Development Review Commission also had favorable comments about the University of South Carolina’s plans for a new law school on Gervais Street after a preliminary presentation on Thursday.
Board members voted unanimously to approve a $60 million, 800-bed complex on Huger Street and Blossom Street. The project, by Manhattan-based Park 7 Group on land now owned by Columbia developer Ben Arnold, is scheduled for completion in August 2015.
The board also had kind words for USC’s 919-bed housing complex set for two block-sized parking lots behind the Carolina Coliseum and the new Moore School of Business after a preliminary presentation. That project also would have some retail and academic space in addition to the swimming pool, volleyball courts and other amenities en vogue in this wave of upscale, apartment-style student housing developments.
USC’s project brings to four the number of student housing projects planned for the area in and around campus.
“I don’t see any major issues that would prevent us from granting approval,” member Lesesne Monteith said.
A formal vote on both the school’s student housing project and the new law school will come later. Both projects also have to pass muster with the city’s planning commission and City Council.
The law school is a 187,500-square-foot, three-story building that is expected to open by 2016. It will cost about $80 million and is on the block surrounded by Gervais, Pickens, Senate and Bull streets, with a courtyard in the middle.
A “monumental” three-story building will front on Gervais Street, giving way to green space and a courtyard on Senate Street. The design incorporates and preserves the historic Taylor and Horry-Guignard houses and their outbuildings on Senate Street.
The USC student housing project will shut down two of the main parking lots for events at the nearby Colonial Life Arena, Koger Center and Carolina Coliseum. USC architect Derek Gruner told board members that was by design and all of the lots in the area eventually will be developed.
That would make the area more welcoming, he said, to bicyclists and pedestrians rather than cars as the traditional campus expands toward the Congaree River and a planned riverfront park in the area referred to as the Innovista research district. The new housing project will have a parking garage but with only enough spaces for residents.
“Our vision for the campus is to keep parking to the periphery,” Gruner said.
Board members agreed with the concept.
“The intent of the (Innovista building) guidelines is we don’t want surface parking,” member Dale Marshall said.