COLUMBIA, SC — The head of the Columbia Development Corp. estimates there has been $389.5 million worth of major investment and development projects planned or constructed in the Vista during the past year.
The new Darla Moore School of Business comprises almost $100 million of the total investment, which is a “huge chunk,” said Fred Delk, head of Columbia Development Corp. The rest of the development includes private student dormitories, the university’s public-private partnership on student housing, the university alumni center and the Hyatt Place hotel.
Together, the projects mark the largest cluster of investment in the Vista since the late 1990s and early 2000s and brings back the excitement that existed before the recession of growth in the Vista area, Delk said.
Delk said he began adding up the figures to discover what has been going on in the area. He said his figures do not include retail such as Urban Outfitters, which opened on Gervais Street during the summer.
The area is attractive for student housing because of the proximity to the business school on Assembly Street, which is planned to be completed in late spring and open for summer classes.
About five student housing complexes worth at least $168 million will double or triple the amount of people who live downtown, he estimated. In addition, Delk valued 200 apartments added to the CanalSide development on Taylor Street at $20 million.
“We are becoming more and more a residential downtown,” Delk said.
The university’s alumni center will be at the corner of Lincoln and Senate streets, near the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. That adds about $26.5 million of Delk’s overall estimate.
The alumni center is designed to be a bridge between alumni and the community, said Jack Claypoole, executive director of My Carolina Alumni Association.
“One of the reasons we selected the Vista to be the home for the alumni center is out of the understanding that that is one of the fastest-growing areas in the city,” Claypoole said.
It made sense to locate the association’s headquarters near restaurants and hotels, he said. The proximity to the proposed cluster of student housing is also a perk.
“One of the most important things that alumni can do is add value to the student experience,” Claypoole said. “So having more students in that part of town only complements the mission of the alumni association.”
Plans for the student housing complex behind the Carolina Coliseum that is a partnership between the university and a private company go before Columbia’s design board on Thursday, according to a draft agenda.
Also on the agenda are a building that Adluh Flour has for lease at 804 Gervais St. and the building at 522 Lady St. Both are requesting preliminary certification for the state’s Bailey Bill, which caps property taxes at preconstruction rates to encourage preservation of historic buildings.
The last time investment was “really, really hot” in the Vista was from the mid to late 1990s up until the start of the recession, Delk said.
“The Vista kind of came into its own in that period as a hot development and entertainment area with public uses,” Delk said.
The Colonial Life Arena opened in 2002 and the convention center, in 2004. The university also initially had established its plan for the Innovista research district, reaching from Assembly to the Congaree River, around that time, Delk said.