Several years ago, when Whole Foods was making a decision about where to locate its first Columbia store, it made what seemed an odd choice: a rundown vacant building along Fort Jackson Boulevard.
Today, that old building with its once-boarded-up windows has been transformed into a premier shopping center with a collection of national and regional retailers, and restaurants that attract daytime, evening and weekend crowds. And, maybe more importantly, the surrounding area has flourished, tying together a shopping district that has been dubbed the Golden Triangle.
The corridor stretches from a revitalized Target-anchored Shoppes at Woodhill along Garners Ferry Road to the venerable and refurbished Trenholm Plaza at the corner of Forest Drive and Trenholm Road in Forest Acres. The drive from one end to the other is less than 10 minutes.
“To get someone to come to your store, you’ve got to do something at the physical location to make them want to come,” said Ben Johnson, research director at the CBRE|Columbia commercial real estate firm.
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That’s exactly what Columbia-based Edens, a major East Coast shopping center developer and owner, has done, some say.
At the Whole Foods-anchored Cross Hill Market, the homegrown developer has attracted Charleston Cooks, which not only sells cookware, but hosts community cooking classes. At Trenholm, Edens has brought in retailers unique to the market, including J.Crew, Anthropologie and Scout & Molly’s.
Since Whole Foods opened, the area around Cross Hill – the most ripe for development – has been sprouting new retailers and restaurants. Smashburger and PDQ both entered the Midlands’ market there. A shopping center that formerly housed a 50-year-old Kmart is being redeveloped into a Marshall’s, Michael’s and PetSmart. And a popular caterer and sweetery, Chocolate Nirvana, just opened a lunch spot nearby.
Market experts say the area is likely to grow as a local shopping district with underutilized areas attracting more local retailers but probably not many more big-box stores.
“It’s not going to be a regional shopping destination,” Johnson said.
With some new retailers already landed, the area is attracting shoppers from downtown, Forest Acres and Lake Katharine. Previously, it drew customers primarily from a three-mile radius, he said.
“It’s truly a community destination, which is a lot more than it has been before,” Johnson said.