The Kline City Center project – a massive, $100 million mixed-use development planned for the corner of Huger and Gervais streets adjacent to the State Museum – has been slashed.
The 545,000-square-foot project envisioned at one of the city’s most prominent corners had included 360 apartments, a mixed-use component of retail stores and more apartments, an office tower, a 140-room hotel and a public, $1 million plaza connecting the Vista with the riverfront.
Now that plan has been cut back to 218 apartments and no public component.
Developer Russ Davis filed the amended plan with the city Wednesday. The reason for the downscaled effort, he said, is the lack of funding for the public aspects of the project – $18 million for two garages, utilities, intersection improvements and the plaza.
“We want very much to build on this site,” said Davis, of Greenville’s Homes Urban development company. “This modification will allow us to proceed without any subsidy from the city.”
The Kline City Center, on the 6.5-acre site of the old Kline Steel Co., is the city’s second big multiuse project in a month to drastically pull back from its announced plans.
Developers of the BullStreet project on the site of the former State Hospital fired its retail recruiter and scaled back plans for a 400,000-square-foot shopping and housing village called BullStreet Commons after plans for up to 80 retailers didn’t materialize.
The BullStreet pullback was caused by changing market conditions, officials of Hughes Development Corp. said. The city has invested tens of millions of dollars in the 180-acre campus, including a $37 million, mostly taxpayer-funded professional baseball stadium, as well as streets, utilities, curbs and gutters. Hughes Development is the BullStreet master developer.
The city is on the hook for at least two parking garages at BullStreet. They have not been built.
The Kline Center downsizing is caused by a lack of political will to form a special tax district to fund the plaza, parking garages and other improvements. Creating the tax district would require the approval of City Council, Richland County Council and the Richland 1 school board.
City Council member Howard Duvall said getting all of those bodies to approve the tax district now would be “debatable.”
“That has been the whole argument all along,” he said. “Could we get participation? It may be possible, but it would be a high hurdle.”
City Council member Sam Davis, who represents North Columbia, said he would not have voted for the tax district.
“Before I consider a (tax district) for that area, I definitely want to see that type of creative financing for other parts of the city, the northern part of the city as well as the eastern part of the city,” he said.
But Sam Davis added that developer Russ Davis “is doing the right thing, by not walking away from the project.”
Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other areas of the city, said it’s doubtful the two councils and the school board would approve of the tax district.
But, Delk said, the news is not all bad.
Davis is building 218 apartments intended for the general public and not students. That means the apartments will be occupied year-round, adding to both the tax base and the vibrancy of the city center. Also, the project moves development “a step closer to the river,” he said. “That’s substantial.”
And Davis still has the remaining 4 acres of the 6.5-acre parcel under contract and could revisit the original plan.
The developers “were shooting for as high as they go,” Delk said. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t come back with additional components later.”