Special Reports

April 25, 2013

Growing up, branching out: Vista expansion means national names, riverfront living

What is the future of the Vista?

What is the future of the Vista?

Think national, vertical, educational and even more entertaining.

With the announcement that trendy Urban Outfitters will set up shop on Gervais Street, more national restaurants and retailers also are headed for the district, which could be good or bad news, depending on your perspective.

Urban Outfitters is expected to draw even more attention to the capital city from national retailers, after the arrival of Mast General Store and Whole Foods.

“They are already here and already looking,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides investment in the Vista. “The key is to keep the balance and mix of both local and national retailers. The traffic generated by the national guys will clearly strengthen the local guys.”

While retail in the Vista is expected to grow up in the national sense, it also will grow up literally.

As vacant land becomes scarce, look for developers to build higher – take, for instance, the new six-story Hyatt Place hotel planned for Gervais Street.

Delk said he sees the trend as a good one.

“Those top floors are going to be occupied by residences,” not hotel guests, he said. “That means more people packed in the area. It’s better economically and environmentally to build residences where the infrastructure is already there.”

Meanwhile, education in downtown means the University of South Carolina. And with the spread of the campus across Assembly toward the river – exemplified by the new Moore School of Business and four new student housing projects slated for the Vista – comes the chance to make USC’s vision of a campus where students, teachers and researchers live, work and play 24 hours a day a reality.

“We have to keep our young professionals in the area, and the Innovista is the key to that venture,” Delk said. “All of that – the housing, the retail, the entertainment and the educational facilities – works together. It’s going to be amazing.”

The arts and entertainment district will continue to grow as an arts and entertainment district, Delk said. And bars and restaurants will continue to open in the district, augmented by more residents. Williams and Pendleton streets are to be extended toward the river, making way for more residential options closer to the river.

Also, he said, development near the Congaree will attract more people there. That includes CanalSide Park at the CanalSide neighborhood, and Coble Plaza, behind EdVenture.

The Three Rivers Greenway will go from Coble Plaza under the Gervais Street bridge and lead to a new Innovista riverfront park on Guignard family land. And the State Museum’s new planetarium, observatory and 4D theater will open.

“All of that becomes interconnected,” Delk said. “It will be astounding what the Vista will be like in 10 years.”

What to watch for

More national retailers and restaurants: The interest from national chains is just beginning.

Vertical growth: Developers will buy 1- and 2-story buildings and tear them down to build taller ones.

Maintaining historical integrity: The conversation will continue. It’s not by accident that the Vista looks the way it does, preservationists say.

Race to the river: A large riverfront park ringed by condos is slated for the Guignard land off Huger.

More places to walk, run, bike: Columbia’s Three Rivers Greenway could be completed after more than 20 years of planning.

Fights over keeping the remaining riverfront natural: Count on ’em.

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