Private dorms get city board’s approval

01/09/2014 11:55 PM

01/10/2014 12:01 AM

An Ohio-based development group that wanted to demolish the Palmetto Compress warehouse in Columbia for student housing has gotten initial city approval to build two private dormitories with a total of 700 beds flanking the historic structure.

Columbia’s Design Development Review Board, which twice rejected the project last year before the city stepped in to buy the warehouse, unanimously approved the two projects on Thursday.

Members last year said the project, located on Blossom, Greene and Pulaski streets, didn’t meet the guidelines for the University of South Carolina’s Innovista District. Members, however, called the re-designed project “good-looking” and “interesting.”

“You hit the guidelines,” said Ashby Gressette, partner in the Stevens & Wilkinson architectural firm, one of five new members on the nine-member panel.

The panel also approved another developer’s 120-bed student apartment complex near the warehouse.

Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other areas of downtown, said the two projects plus a redeveloped Palmetto Compress warehouse would transform the Pulaski Street corridor.

“We’ll see more than $100 million in investment in the next two years,” he said.

The proposals are the latest in a wave of student housing projects that began on Bluff Road and migrated closer to the USC campus. Projects are under way or planned in the Vista and on Main Street. Demand for housing has grown as USC’s enrollment mushroomed in recent years.

And these are not your father’s dorms, but rather resort-like developments with lots of amenities from sand volleyball courts to gyms to attract students.

Edwards Communities Development last year planned to raze the historic warehouse to build a larger project, but the company later pulled out when the city agreed to purchase the building to keep it from being demolished. The warehouse is now under contract with Palmetto Compress Preservation Developers, led by Vista businesswoman Rosie Craig.

Craig said the new Edwards project is good news for the warehouse, providing a built-in market for any retail in the building as well as creating energy in the area.

“It’s an affirmation that we did the right thing,” she said.

Edwards officials said work would start on the project in March and be completed in time for the 2015 fall semester.

The land under contract for the apartments is owned the USC Development Foundation, which has said the project would not compete with USC’s plans for its own student apartments just a few blocks away behind Carolina Coliseum. USC plans to work with a private developer for a 919-bed apartment complex that is still awaiting DDRC approval.

The panel on Thursday also approved a development bounded by Pendleton, Huger, College and Pulaski streets called Pulaski Square. It will have 120 beds and would contain a community building and pool.

Also nearby, Manhattan-based Park 7 Group plans a $60 million, 800-bed complex on Huger Street and Blossom Street on land owned by developer Ben Arnold. Those apartments also should open in August 2015.

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