W. Columbia takes new step to redevelop site

tflach@thestate.comFebruary 23, 2014 

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— West Columbia is switching strategy to try to make a seven-year redevelopment dream happen.

City Council members hired commercial broker NAI Avant to promote the creation of a complex of offices and shops on a highly visible site at the edge of the Gervais Street bridge.

The new approach is necessary after repeated failure of City Hall efforts to reach a deal on development of the 4-acre site, Mayor Joe Owens said.

“It’s just a mess,” he said. “We should have handed it off to somebody a long time ago.”

Developers are seeking too many incentives, he said. “It seems like everybody wants us to give it away.”

The new approach is worth a try, some neighborhood leaders say.

“It’s probably a good move,” said Bobby George, a leader of the West Side Neighborhood Association. “We need some help.”

City leaders spent $3 million to assemble eight parcels into one site for a project they hope will bring more vibrancy to an area informally known as the West Vista. But several proposals to do that have fallen through.

Their new effort to make that vision occur also could affect recreation on the nearby Congaree River.

The parcel, at Meeting and State streets, is an unofficial parking lot for activities at the park and path along the river.

Owens wants a project that blends retail and offices with adequate parking for shoppers and riverfront users.

It’s unclear if parking still would be free in any project that rises on the site.

But the operator of a company that provides riverfront recreation welcomes the goal of parking for his customers being kept available.

“I know development has to come there,” said Michael Mayo, owner of Palmetto Outdoor. “My wish is for harmony that’s beneficial for everyone.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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