A Columbia developer is buying up property on Trenholm Road near Forest Drive for a prospective village-style shopping center between Forest Acres city hall and Eightmile Branch.
Details of the proposed shopping center have not been released, but developer Stan Harpe recently presented Forest Acres a conceptual plan for a mix of retail outlets, restaurants and other enterprises, asking the city to rezone the area to a C-3 commercial district.
Forest Acres, which operates its police department, municipal court and a new administrative building adjacent to three private properties being purchased by Harpe, gave initial approval to the rezoning request in September. The city also changed its properties to the C-3 commercial designation.
Harpe, of H.R. Development Co., which has done some property development in Five Points, declined to comment about the Trenholm Road project.
Some of the property owners in the area said they indeed were selling their property to Harpe, though they were not completely clear on the details of the proposed new development.
“I think it’ll be a good thing,” said Edwin Cooper, owner of Whitehouse Investments, which owns one of three properties sought by Harpe. “It’s a new use, and hopefully a better use than it’s been in the past.”
Cooper said he had been looking for two years for a buyer for his two-story, 5,900-square building when Harpe came along. The property, comprised primarily of office space and Tatiana’s Tailoring shop, has been in Cooper’s family since 1984.
Cooper has co-owned the Whitehouse Investments partnership with his son since 2012. Cooper said he expects his office building to be razed.
Next door, the 8,100-square-feet Russell & Jeffcoat building is also pending a sale to Harpe, according to Jimmy Derrick of Coldwell Banker, who said he represented Harpe in the sale of the property. Russell & Jeffcoat real estate, once the largest real estate firm in the Midlands, was purchased earlier this year by Coldwell Banker.
The vacant Trenholm Road building has been owned by the Russell and Jeffcoat families, Russell-Jeffcoat Enterprises, since 1994, when it was purchased for $305,000.
Forest Acres Dentistry, located at 5211 Trenholm Road, operates in the third structure included in the shopping center land acquisition and has been owned since 1989 by H. Stoney Denny Jr., a longtime local dentist who recently retired The 5,200-square-foot building and property was purchased in 1989 for $66,000.
Denny sold the property to Harpe as of last week, according to his wife, Linda.
Burnette Cleaners owner Mike Burnette said he has a lease on the building at 5213 Trenholm Road until October 2017. Burnette disclosed no further future plans for his business at that location, deferring to his landlord. The landlord, Columbia-based Wings Investments LLC, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Harpe approached Forest Acres with a conceptual plan for a new shopping village for the properties a few months ago, thinking the properties already were zoned C-3, said Forest Acres city administrator Mark Williams. Officially, the properties were C-1, Williams said, and the city’s properties, including the two-story building that houses the police department and city court and the one-story housing city administrative services, were of an institutional P-1 zoning designation.
“In the course of that, we decided that, longterm, all of this property probably ought to be the same zoning from the corner back to the creek, so we decided to throw ours into the mix and also rezone it from C-1 and P-1 to C-3,” Williams said.
“So, on the basis of that, the entire area has been rezoned behind Five Guys to the creek (on one side of Trenholm Road).”
The city’s properties are not included in Harpe’s redevelopment plan, Williams said, though the city has “outgrown” its space in the police and court building and the new administrative building.
Forest Acres recently sought unsuccessfully to move its city hall, police and court operations to Forest Park, the shopping center next to the former Cardinal Newman School on Forest Drive, in space previously occupied by a succession of grocery stores, most recently Bi-Lo, which closed last month.
The police and court building are in the flood zone, Williams said, though the city administrative building behind it is not.
The police station was badly damaged in last October’s flood, rendering the station inoperable as an emergency or public safety center during the flood and for several months thereafter, Williams said. Flood water and raw sewage invaded the first floor of the building last fall, requiring a complete renovation, he said.
Harpe could move forward with his redevelopment plan without further city contact, as long as the project meets zoning requirements, Williams said.
“After our experience with the last flooding, we decided that we needed to get a building that was on higher ground, if it was going to operate as our emergency operation zone, which a police station needs to be,” Williams said. “We had sort of outgrown our facilities anyway, until we purchased the administrative building behind us.”
The city is “casually looking” for a new location for city hall, Williams said. “If something of interest (comes along), we’d take a look at it, but there’s not that many properties available.”
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398