Economic study predicts Bull Street billions

06/26/2013 11:32 PM

08/23/2013 7:41 PM

The redevelopment of the old State Hospital campus on Bull Street will generate $1.2 billion a year in economic impact and eventually $20 million a year in taxes to local governments and the Richland 1 school district, according to an economic activity study to be released Thursday.

By contrast, one of the city’s biggest economic engines — Fort Jackson — generates about $2 billion a year in economic impact, according to studies. But, because it is a federal installation, the fort pays no property taxes.

The new Bull Street neighborhood of shops, offices, residences and perhaps a minor league ballpark also would create an average of 1,200 construction jobs annually over the 20 or more years it will take to complete the construction, according to the study, which was commissioned by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber chief executive Ike McLeese wouldn’t comment on the specific numbers until Thursday’s press conference, but called the project “a game changer” and a “giant step to finishing the job of revitalizing downtown.”

The press conference is part of a concerted public relations push by Bull Street backers prior to two upcoming public hearings and a vote by City Council on an agreement with Upstate developer Bob Hughes.

The agreement was made public on Monday and council will vote on it twice over the next two weeks. Hughes’ contract to buy the property expires July 31.

Harry Miley, chief executive of Miley & Associates, which prepared the study, said the $1.2 billion economic impact figure was based on wages of residents and people employed at the site, goods purchased for construction of buildings and myriad other ways money flows into the project. Those figures are then multiplied using accepted standards as turning over once or twice in the economy, creating the annual economic impact.

For instance, a construction or retail worker receives his salary and buys something, like a haircut. The barber then uses the money to purchase something else, like more supplies for his shop.

The study estimates that there will be more than 3,500 residences in the development when it is completed, housing 5,000 to 6,000 people. In addition, the stores and offices in the development are expected to eventually employ 10,000 people over and above the construction workers.

“The biggest impact will be the people living and working in the area,” Miley said.

The development also will have an impact on the city as a whole, McLeese said, attracting more developers to consider downtown projects.

The downtown area already is in the midst of a revitalization with projects under way on Main Street, in the Vista and nearby on Devine Street at Fort Jackson Boulevard. Those projects are attracting office headquarters, apartment complexes and national retailers, such as Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters.

“(The Bull Street project) will enhance all of downtown and accelerate what is already happening,” McLeese said. “When people see that Hughes is going forward, it will add to the momentum.”

A spokesman for Hughes declined comment on the economic impact numbers.

“We’ll be glad to talk with you after the city makes its decision,” Bob McAlister said.

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