One of the few remaining buildings original to downtown’s historic African-American business district will be demolished to make way for a 15-story apartment tower.
Plans for The Edge apartment complex beside the Richland Library on Assembly Street will move forward after a six-month pause, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin announced Thursday.
History advocates had hoped to see the century-old building at 1401 Assembly preserved within the design of the apartments or, at the very least, relocated and refurbished.
“There weren’t enough people willing to come around the table and make it work,” said Robin Waites, director of Historic Columbia. “I think we lose a connection to a really key part of our history, which is the story of that black business district, which was so vibrant in the early 20th century.”
The two-story, beige-brick storefront has served many purposes since it was constructed in 1914, most recently as a beauty salon.
The storefront originally opened as a pharmacy co-owned by Dr. Eugene K. DeLoach, local manager of the Keeley Insititute, a controversial organization at the time that marketed a “cure” for alcoholism, according to Historic Columbia.
As the area around Assembly and Washington streets developed into Columbia’s main black business district, the upper floors became the office for Nathaniel J. Frederick, who served as principal of the Howard School and editor of the African-American newspaper the Southern Indicator. He also helped organize the local chapter of the NAACP.
In July 2016, developers for The Edge sought the city’s design approval for the 355,000-square-foot apartment complex, expected to include more than 600 beds aimed at college students and young professionals.
At the same time, Historic Columbia asked for assurance that the current corner building would be saved.
The city’s design panel delayed a decision at that time, and the development plans haven’t been discussed publicly since.
“After consulting with the family that owns the property and taking their wish to sell the property into account, the decision was reached that the best course of action would be to demolish the building and allow (developer CRG Real Estate Solutions) to move forward with The Edge project,” Benjamin said in a news release. “The Edge is an exciting and unique $60 million multifamily development that will change the landscape of downtown Columbia.”
Benjamin has touted The Edge as a potential revenue source for a special tax district he has proposed to help fund the renovation of nearby Finlay Park.
The developer plans to memorialize the building at 1401 Assembly and the historic district it represents with a series of plaques, the city said in a news release.