The Lourie's building on Main Street, which has a new owner and a hot new store on the way, is becoming a city landmark as well.
The Columbia Design Development Review Commission this week recommended designating the 125-year-old building as an important historic structure.
With City Council approval, the landmark designation will give it some protection from demolition in the future. And the status will help new owner Mast General Store leverage local, state and federal historic tax credits and abatements.
"This is pretty much a no-brainer," commission member Dale Marshall said.
The building at Main and Taylor streets was constructed in 1884 and has housed a business ever since. It was originally a two-story structure and was later raised to three stories and extended to the rear.
Several businesses were located in the building before 1915. The Efird Brothers department store occupied the space from 1915 until 1958.
Lourie's, which had been a men's clothier in St. George since 1912, moved into the building in 1960. It was the last of a four-store local chain.
The store became known for dressing powerful politicians and high-ranking executives. Its closing last year was considered the end of an era.
Mast General Store bought the building in October and announced last month it would open a store there.
The popular store started in the North Carolina mountains and has branched into other cities including Greenville. It is a combination cutting-edge outdoor outfitter and old-fashioned country store, carrying a mix of products from penny candy and handmade toys to clothing and handbags. The stores usually employ 20 to 30 people.
When it opens in a year or two, the store will occupy 15,000 square feet on the first floor and in the basement. Mast plans to put apartments on the second and third floors of the building at Main and Taylor streets.
The renovation of the building will be helped by a 10-year, $2 million loan from Columbia officials using federal stimulus money. The tax credits made available by the landmark designation will help the company repay the loan.
Efforts to reach Mast company officials were unsuccessful.
But city preservationist Amy Moore said they were supportive of the landmark designation.
"They are very sensitive to and appreciative of the history of the property," she said.
Moore called the Lourie's building "an important piece of Reconstruction Era architecture like the Brennan Building and the Woodrow Wilson home."
The sale price was not revealed. But the Lourie family had trouble selling the building.
It went on the market for $2.5 million in December 2007 and failed to draw even a single bid at $799,000 in May.
Mast promises to be a boost for Main Street north of Hampton Street, which is home to a number of low-cost clothiers, as well as decades-old jewelry stores and nail and wig shops.
It will also be the first major retailer on Main Street since three department stores closed in the early 1990s.
A retail study completed last year by a Washington consulting firm said Main Street and Lady Street were best suited to become downtown Columbia's shopping destination. Mast was the first announcement since the report was released.
City officials have said Mast should be a good match with the Nickelodeon art-house theater, which is moving in next door.
While Main Street has added three office towers recently, SCANA, the state's only Fortune 500 company, left for a corporate campus in Cayce.