A $55 million student housing project planned for Columbia’s new BullStreet development will not get a tax break worth up to 50 percent over 10 years, Richland County Council narrowly decided Tuesday.
Haven Campus Communities has said it plans to build 234 apartments for college students on almost 6.5 acres at BullStreet Common, the long-planned development in downtown Columbia anchored by the Spirit Communications Ballpark.
The developer had applied for a tax credit that would have allowed it to pay no more than $750,000 in property taxes to the county each year for 10 years.
It was the fifth project to apply for the tax incentive, which was offered to developers that applied between 2014 and Dec. 31, 2015.
Haven was the last to apply for the tax break and the only one to be denied.
It was unclear Wednesday night if the development would go forward as planned.
Former Columbia mayor Bob Coble, a lawyer representing Haven Campus Communities, said Tuesday night he has not discussed with the developers whether they plan to proceed with the project now that there will be no tax break.
“We’re disappointed, but we certainly apprecitate County Council giving it the consideration that they did,” Coble said.
The four student apartment complexes, all in downtown Columbia, that have received tax incentives are: Park Place at the corner of Blossom and Huger streets, Greene Crossing on Pulaski Street, the Station at Five Points at the corner of Gervais and Harden streets, and a complex planned at Assembly and Pendleton streets near USC’s School of Music.
“The whole concept of student housing is now self-supporting,” said Councilman Greg Pearce, who voted against extending the tax incentive for the Haven project.
Council voted 6-5 Tuesday to deny the tax break. Council members Norman Jackson, Torrey Rush, Paul Livingston, Jim Manning and Damon Jeter voted in favor of the tax break.
Council voted earlier this year to deny the tax break for the Haven project, but a loophole in council procedures allowed the item to come back around for a new vote.
Livingston argued at length for offering the incentive, saying student housing projects could be a “catalyst” for spurring the growth of a “knowledge economy” in Richland County.
He argued that a student apartment complex such as the Haven project or the Station at Five Points would generate more tax revenue for the county, even receiving a 50 percent tax break, than a same-sized office building paying full taxes.
“We provide incentives for a whole lot of opportunities in our county,” Livingston said. “You give incentives based on what’s in the best interest of your county.”
Under S.C. law, only counties can approve such tax breaks, even if the project is to be located in a city. Richland, at the request of the city of Columbia, created the time-limited break to attract development city officials said wouldn’t happen without it.
The tax break spurred a downtown building blitz of private student apartments as well as apartments marketed to adults.
This was the first student complex proposed for BullStreet Common.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.