A developer’s concept for building apartments above downtown Columbia’s Lady Street parking garage could turn into one of the tallest buildings in South Carolina.
At a meeting Thursday with office tenants of the Capitol Center at Assembly and Gervais streets, which is adjacent to the Lady Street garage, representatives from the city and Hallmark Homes International Inc. explained a plan to build a 22-story, 250-unit apartment tower atop the seven-story garage, according to Assistant City Manager Melissa Gentry and Capitol Center tenants who were at the meeting.
If the developers’ plans materialize, the structure would be the tallest in Columbia and at least the second tallest in the state, at 29 stories. The 25-story Capitol Center is South Carolina’s tallest office building. The tallest structure is a 373-foot, 30-story tower, built in 2009 in Abbeville and used in the manufacture of power cable.
The Lady Street garage sits a half-block from the State House. Another tower of apartments, standing at 15 stories, also is being planned near the State House, at Main and College streets. That project, a student housing development, recently sparked concerned from University of South Carolina leaders and the city Design/Development Review Commission for its scale and density.
City Council last month approved an air-rights agreement that allows Hallmark Homes, a development group led by Columbia developer and investor Don Tomlin, to explore building atop as many as six city-owned garages downtown.
Efforts to reach Tomlin and Hallmark representatives were unsuccessful Friday.
The next step for the city and the developer is a parking agreement, Gentry said, which council will take up at some point after next week’s Tuesday City Council meeting. Council must sign off on that agreement.
Parking is a concern for some who work in the Capitol Center and park in the Lady Street garage. They could find themselves competing for parking with potentially hundreds of new residents, since no new parking spaces are being added.
City representatives provided a fact sheet to Capitol Center tenants at the informational meeting Thursday, addressing questions about issues such as traffic and garage capacity.
According to the city, potential apartment residents likely would not compete with business commuters for parking spaces, because their peak parking demand times are at different times of the day. The city’s fact sheet says studies have been conducted for months to determine whether there would be adequate spaces available at any given time of day to accommodate the crossover between residential and business users. All of that assumes residents will not walk to work downtown, however.
The apartments would be marketed mainly to young professionals and empty-nesters, not students.
The developer would not be receiving any tax breaks or incentives from the city, city officials say.
Construction of the apartments, if plans move forward, would not shut down the garage, the city says, though there might be times when some areas of the garage could temporarily be blocked off.
Other downtown garages that could see apartment development include the Lincoln Street, Park Street, Washington Street, Taylor Street and Cannon (at Taylor and Sumter streets) garages.
If they move forward with potential future garage apartment projects, the developer and the city would have to negotiate a project-specific agreement that would require City Council approval in each case.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.