COLUMBIA’S downtown is back — and it’s alive. Already undergoing a pleasant and long-awaited resurgence, downtown got a big shot in the arm with the opening of the new luxury apartment complex on Main Street that is home to about 850 young professionals and college students.
The complex — aptly named The Hub — will bring an unprecedented amount of activity, vitality and youthfulness to Main Street. Combined with the influx of restaurants, banks and other stores and ventures over the past five years or so, it’s safe to say that our capital city’s downtown has turned a significant corner and is well on its way to becoming the city center that city officials, business people and the community long have desired.
The Hub’s impressive amenities abound, beginning with a rooftop deck with swimming pools, hammocks, deck chairs, covered tables, outdoor games and a giant-screen TV for game-day viewing. On the inside, there are lounge areas, weight rooms, spas, tanning booths, table games and even hot tubs in some apartments.
The arrival of The Hub is particularly significant because it erases the biggest reminder of the downtown slump that Columbia has spent years — and millions of dollars — trying to overcome. The apartment complex occupies the 20-story former Palmetto Center, which served as headquarters for utility giant SCANA until the state’s only Fortune 500 company moved to Cayce in 2009. SCANA’s departure was a jolt to Main Street and downtown and a source of much angst.
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But Main Street has been undergoing a hopeful resurgence the past few years, and The Hub opens at a time when it is seeing a healthy influx of new commerce: In the past year, about a dozen new restaurants have opened along the corridor, in part in anticipation of The Hub. Those fit in nicely with other additions in recent years, including Mast General Store and Nickelodeon Theater and the nearby Michael’s Cafe and Catering, Paradise Ice and Drip Coffee.
Yes, there are going to be growing pains. Having such a large concentration of full-time students living downtown is new to the city. So is having such a confluence of new development along Main Street and downtown. But those challenges will be well worth the tremendous positive impact from The Hub and many other new amenities downtown.
The influx of businesses, increased commerce and laudable momentum that has developed in downtown Columbia — there seems to be no let up any time soon — will only serve to strengthen the city as the true hub of the Midlands. A strong, vibrant city core is key to sustaining a growing, thriving region. As goes Columbia, so goes the Midlands. While new residents and industry might locate outside of Columbia, many come to our area based on the health and vitality of the major city.
There was a time when Columbia’s downtown, like so many others, seemed on the brink of collapse. But new life has come.