Although there are predictions that the proposed mega-development proposed for the old State Hospital site on Bull Street will bring new jobs and retailers and restaurants to Columbia, you’ve got to wonder how much of that will be switch business from other parts of town.
When new development, particularly new housing, comes to town, there is a tendency for retailers and restaurants to uproot and follow it. That’s certainly what happened several years ago in Northeast Columbia when Kroger, Target, Red Lobster, Olive Garden and T.J. Maxx left the Decker Boulevard area and headed to the far reaches of Two Notch Road. Naturally, shoppers and patrons followed their favorite shop or eatery. That meant less people frequenting the Decker area.
As talk continues about the Bull Street development and a possible minor league baseball park that would serve as its anchor, it’s legitimate to wonder whether the proposed mega-development could cause nearby areas, namely Five Points, Main Street and the Vista, to be hit by the “Decker Boulevard syndrome”.
Will a ballpark-driven Bull Street draw mostly new businesses — including retailers and restaurants — that will locate not just within the mega-development but downtown and in Five Points and the Vista? Or will businesses that once considered opening in the Vista or Five Points decide to go to Bull Street instead? Worse, will businesses close locations downtown or in the Vista and move to Bull Street?
Something to think about as Columbia, which is footing all of the bill for infrastructure, also considers paying most of the cost for a minor league baseball park.