City gets six bids to develop Palmetto Compress building

jwilkinson@thestate.comSeptember 23, 2013 

The iconic Palmetto Compress Warehouse, on the corner of Blossom and Pulaski Streets.

FILE PHOTOGRAPH — The State Buy Photo

The city of Columbia has received six bids on the Palmetto Compress warehouse, ranging from student housing to lodging.

The Columbia Development Corp., the quasi-public agency that owns the building for the city of Columbia, is studying the bids and should make a recommendation to City Council “in a couple of weeks,” said the corporation’s executive director Fred Delk.

The committee studying the proposals for the huge, 320,000-square-foot former cotton warehouse is made up of the development corporation’s board and four city staffers appointed by city manager Teresa Wilson.

Delk would not reveal the names of the developers who had submitted the proposals, nor provide any details about the bids themselves, saying that the requests for bids promised anonymity until the committee had finished its review.

“I can’t go into the specifics of the responses while it is going before the committee,” he said. “That review is under way now and it will take a couple of weeks. I am thrilled with the quality of the responses.”

He said the proposals include student housing, traditional apartments, a hotel, offices and mixed uses.

“They run the entire gamut,” he said. “I’m confident that at the end of the day people are going to be really happy with the outcome.”

The city in March gave the corporation a $7 million line of credit to purchase the nearly century-old building. It had been slated for demolition by the owners, who said they had tried to sell it for 25 years without success, after a deal fell through with an Ohio developer, who also wanted to raze the structure to build an 800-bed student housing complex.

The corporation purchased the building for $5.6 million. Less than $100,000 of the remaining $1.4 million has been used to prepare the building for sale, Delk said.

Delk said the money was used to complete structural, environmental and other studies that will be provided to a potential developer to help ensure that any redevelopment would conform to local, state and federal historic standards. Conforming to those standards would allow the developer to leverage substantial state and federal tax credits to help fund its renovation.

The building, located between Devine and Blossom streets along Pulaski Street, is in the National Register of Historic Places, which offers only minimal protection from demolition. The city plans to grant the building landmark status, which offers more protection.

The warehouse is situated in USC’s Innovista research district, within walking distance of the new Darla Moore School of Business, the Colonial Center, Carolina Stadium and other downtown destinations.

Veteran Columbia developer Richard Burts, who renovated the dilapidated former Olympia and Granby mills community center into the successful 701 Whaley event and arts center, is acting as a consultant to one of the developers. He wouldn’t name his client or any other potential developer.

He said the building’s size and location lends itself to many uses.

“It (plays) out really well because you have so much street frontage,” he said, referring to the way the building could be compartmentalized and built out in phases. “If someone wanted to do student housing, they could build it out all at once. With mixed use you could phase it in and cover a lot of different needs in that area. But any quality development would be welcomed.”

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