One Main vies for designation as historic building

One Main – the landmark 11-story building at the corner of Main and Gervais streets – may be getting a facelift.

The building, which now houses the WOLO television studio, will be evaluated by S.C. Department of History and Archives next week to see if it qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places. The status would allow the owner – a California investor – to use historic tax credits to renovate the building to its original art deco exterior and turn it into offices and apartments.

The renovation would be the latest boost for a resurgent Main Street, which is seeing an increasing number of buildings being reused for stores, restaurants, offices and apartments.

This week, workers removed green glass cladding from one wall of the building at 1200 Main St., to reveal the original glazed terra cotta exterior, which was marred in the 1980s when the cladding was installed. History and Archives will determine if damage is severe enough to exclude it from national register designation.

“They will ultimately say whether there is enough left under the panels to qualify,” said Richard Burts, a Columbia developer who renovated the old Olympia community center into the 701 Whaley arts and event venue.

Burts, who is handling the renovation project for Torrance, Calif.-based Red Curb Investments, wouldn’t say if the renovation would go forward without the historic building status.

“It would be a hard sell” without the tax credits, he said. “But I’m not thinking about any downside.”

The building was completed in August 1913 to house the Union National Bank. At the time, it was Columbia’s second “skyscraper” behind the 12-story Barringer Building, which is now the Capitol Places apartments, and preceding by four months the 12-story Palmetto Building, which is now the Sheraton hotel.

At the time it was built, the building gleamed with white-glazed terra cotta and was topped with spindles and a stepped parapet. The paint faded through the years and in the 1980s the owners hacked off the original window headers to install cheaper, smaller windows and the green glass panels, said architect Michael Watson, who will design the renovations if they go forward.

John Sherrer of Historic Columbia said the reason the owner reduced the details of the building was to make it look more modern.

“We’re constantly reskinning buildings,” he said. “But the level of destruction on One Main was pretty heavy-handed. The good news is, there is enough detail and enough photographs to result in a good rehabilitation and restoration of the facade.”

The interior renovation will be interesting, Watson said, because the building is very narrow at only 28 feet, and a second stairwell will have to be cut through all 11 stories.

Burts estimated the renovations would cost between $8 million and $10 million.

“Right now we are looking at mixed use – residential and office flats,” he said.