January 9, 2013

Columbia ready to play ball on new events facility

The new 1,500-person event and concert venue across from USC’s new baseball stadium on Williams Street is designed to, supporters say, bridge the gap between nightclubs and the much larger Township Auditorium.

Columbia is on track to get a new 1,500-person event and concert venue across from USC’s new baseball stadium on Williams Street.

It’s a facility boosters say is needed to bridge the concert venue gap between nightclubs and the much larger Township Auditorium. And it is the third events venue announced in the downtown area in recent months, building on the success of other nearby facilities.

The Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday unanimously approved a special zoning exemption for the 14,000-square-foot facility called Venue 419. The space is a warehouse attached to the Colonial Printing Co. on Huger Street. The business would remain at the front of the building, said owner Jim Faulkenberry, who is planning the venue with two partners.

The facility would host events such wedding receptions, religious services, political gatherings, concerts and game day baseball events. The building might even have a rooftop patio overlooking Carolina Stadium, where the University of South Carolina’s two-time national championship baseball team plays.

“We wanted to capitalize on what was going on at the baseball stadium across the street,” Faulkenberry said.

The new venue would be located between 701 Whaley arts and events venue in Olympia and Senate’s End on Huger Street – both of which have become popular meeting spaces in recent years. It follows an announcement that USC and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center will partner on a new $30 million, 60,000-square-foot alumni center to open at nearby Sumter and Lincoln streets next year and an announcement last year that a group of businessmen hope to turn the old Curtiss-Wright hangar in the Rosewood area into a restaurant and events venue.

Faulkenberry and partner Oakley Dickson, a Lexington student pastor and aspiring Christian music promoter, said the new facility near the baseball stadium wouldn’t be a nightclub with a permanent bar, but rather a venue that would be rented by planners and promoters who would hire their own caterers and bartending services.

“We plan to have Christian and well as secular bands and are kind of downplaying the alcohol part,” Faulkenberry said. “The Christian side of it is what attracted me to it, but we understand that some (promoters) will need to sell alcohol.”

Dickson said the venue could attract events and concerts that used to be booked into the now-closed Headliners music club in The Vista.

“Everything now is either too big or too small,” Dickson said.

Board member Calhoun McMeekin III said the facility would help transform the area, which presently is dominated by sheet metal buildings and surface parking lots.

“And it’s something that our music scene is lacking,” he said. “I see it as filling a void.”

Andrew Horne, event manager at Township Auditorium, agreed.

“I think Columbia needs a venue of that size,” said Horne, who was contacted by The State after the meeting. “Charleston has the Music Farm. And there’s The Fillmore in Charlotte. All of the up and coming bands like Fun., Drop Kick Murphys and STS9 would be interested in a venue of that size.”

The facility would also be used for Carolina baseball game day gatherings, Faulkenberry said — events that it hosted unofficially last season.

Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides development in the Vista, said he was not aware of the project, “but it sounds like a great thing. It could bring additional activity to an area that has been slow to develop.”

The project needed a special exception from the Board of Zoning Appeals because the area’s MX zoning, tied to USC Innovista Design Guidelines, doesn’t have a provision for a venue that falls between a banquet facility and a concert venue with permanent alcohol sales.

Members expressed concerns that the venue would adversely impact neighboring businesses during business hours. But it was granted the exception after the applicants said they would make arrangements with their neighboring businesses and USC for dedicated parking.

Faulkenberry said the metal warehouse building would be veneered in brick. The exterior changes would have to be approved by the city’s Design Development Review Commission and structural changes by city staff.

“We want to do something that will complement the baseball stadium,” he said.

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