Tower of upscale student apartments to be built along Assembly

06/12/2014 9:12 PM

06/12/2014 9:43 PM

A private student housing project planned just blocks from the USC Horseshoe will feature 848 beds, five-bedroom suites, private parking and street-level retail.

The latest entry into downtown’s burgeoning upscale student housing market will be two glass-covered towers 12-stories high, with a theater, fitness center and rooftop pool.

It will be situated along Assembly, Pendleton and Park streets, across Assembly from the State House, with suites ranging from one- to five-bedrooms. USC’s Horsehoe – the core of the school’s older campus – is on the opposite side of the State House.

Construction could begin as soon as next spring on the $60 million, 435,000-square-foot complex, named University SC Tower, according to Paul Levine of the Park 7 development group, a Manhattan-based firm also responsible for a planned 640-bed student housing complex along Blossom Street.

It could open sometime in 2017, he said.

Street-level retail space – a first for student housing complexes in Columbia – will be located along Pendleton Street.

And the number of beds makes The Tower smaller only than The Hub, set to open along Main Street in August, and USC’s private-public housing complex being built behind the Carolina Coliseum and the new Moore School of Business.

The city’s Design/Development Review Commission on Thursday approved site and design plans for the project.

The addition of a multi-use residential and retail space is just what the city has had in mind for the development of the downtown area, said Fred Delk, director of the city’s Columbia Development Corp.

“I feel really good about having all of these people out walking around and taking advantage of the area we’re going to create with all these people,” Delk said.

The land at the Assembly Street site was owned for years by the family of state Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland. It is now under contract by Park 7, Levine said.

The University SC Tower project already has been approved for a 10-year, 50 percent property tax cut designed to lure large student housing complexes to the city. It’s one of three complexes along the edges of the Vista that will receive the unusual tax break created by Richland County at the request of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Situated along the heavily traveled and recently renovated Assembly Street, the apartments are not likely to significantly increase the amount of peak-hour vehicle traffic, according to a traffic impact analysis submitted to the city. Most of the residents’ trips are likely to be a combination of walking, bicycling and university shuttle , according to the report.

The addition of so many feet on the streets in the area should force the city to move along its efforts to make the city more walkable and connective, Delk said.

“We’ve got to figure out how they can safely walk from one place to another,” he said.

Nearly 3,200 apartments aimed at students are planned in the corridor between Assembly and Huger streets. University SC Tower joins a boom of student housing developments with multiple amenities cropping up near USC’s campus, including:

• The Hub, an 850-bed complex in the former Palmetto Center along Main Street that is to open in August.
• An Edwards Communities development with 700 beds flanking the Palmetto Compress warehouse near Huger and Blossom streets.
• The 919-bed project being built by USC and Holder Properties behind the Carolina Coliseum, the only project that is entirely tax exempt.

The projects are part of what Delk expects to be more that $700 million invested in downtown development – including residences, offices, retail and academic spaces – in the coming years.

In just the Main Street and Vista areas, Delk said he expects the number of people living downtown to grow from about 1,300 to around 5,000 in the next three to four years.

“It’s what we’ve been striving for,” he said. “Once you create that more-and-more-active environment, more people will want to become a part of it.”

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