Forty-one stores and restaurants have signed letters of intent to locate at the former S.C. State Hospital property on Bull Street in Columbia, developers said Tuesday. And groundbreakings are planned for the first retail building and Columbia’s new minor league baseball park before Christmas, developers and city officials said.
“It will be a defining moment in this city’s history,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “America’s greatest pastime will be coming back to Columbia in a professional sense in a new park in a vibrant new retail environment. The citizens of Columbia and the Midlands are going to be very excited about developments over the next several months.”
The 165-acre Bull Street redevelopment project, considered to be the largest and most significant land deal in modern Columbia history, is expected to add thousands of new homes, stores and offices to the area near downtown. The 41 retailers and restaurants that have signed letters of intent for leases represent about half of the 400,000 square feet of retail space slated for the Bull Street side of the property.
The 120,000-square-foot retail and office building that will be started this year will be 5 feet, 1 inch away from the first base side of a new $35 million minor league ball park on the site, Greenville developer Bob Hughes told The State. It will be called the First Base Building and likely will house restaurants or sports bars, he said.
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Hughes, the architect of Greenville’s downtown revival, has named the town center-style retail, residential and office development Columbia Common. The First Base Building and the baseball stadium, which could include another retail and office building along the third-base line, are expected to open in January 2016 in anticipation of the start of baseball season that April.
Retail recruiter Hughes Commercial Properties, owned by Hughes’ cousin Jackson Hughes of Greenville, has entered into an agreement with Miami-based retail and residential company Lennar Commercial to find tenants for the remaining retail space and the 700,000 to 800,000 square feet of residential and office space to be built above it.
“They bring a wealth of experience to our leasing team,” Jackson Hughes said.
The 41 tenants represent everything from 1,000-square-foot coffee shop-size retailers to 60,000-square-foot national retailers, Bob Hughes said.
“That includes some exciting retailers new to this market,” said Bob Hughes, who declined to name any of the probable tenants.
Columbia Common will be a shopping area with apartments and condominiums, which is to be built above shops in one- to three-story buildings. It also will utilize several historic buildings on the old asylum property.
The development and the ballpark take up about one-third of the sprawling Bull Street property and represents the first phase of the project.
Hughes at first predicted that it would take 20 years to build out the entire 165-acre site. He says now he has gotten so much interest from retailers, hoteliers and residential and office developers that it could take just half that time.
An ever-changing master plan calls for a lake in the center of the campus, offices and apartment buildings along Harden and Calhoun streets and the redevelopment of the huge Babcock Building, with its distinctive red cupola, into a hotel or conference center.
A planned apartment complex that was to front Calhoun Street has been delayed because of a change of ownership in the publicly held development company, Hughes said. Hughes wouldn’t name the development company. Construction was to have started in August.
In addition to retail recruitment and the baseball park, Hughes said there have been countless hours spent on engineering, planning, architectural work, traffic studies and myriad other behind-the-scenes work on the project.
“There’s a lot to do before you can start construction,” he said. “Just because you don’t see a shovel out there doesn’t mean there isn’t intense activity.”