It promises to be a busy year ahead in development, with new student dorms and a baseball stadium among projects in the works.
Here, a look at some of the things that will be making headlines in 2015, in business and the military.
Bull Street: The redevelopment of the 165-acre main campus of the old State Hospital site along Bull Street is expected to begin in 2015. The first structures will be a new $37 million minor league baseball stadium and an accompanying 120,000-square-foot retail and office building.
Forty-one retailers and restaurants have signed letters of intent for leases on the property, according to Hughes Development of Greenville, the project’s master developer. That represents about half of the 400,000 square feet of retail space slated for the Bull Street side of the property – a shopping area Bob Hughes has named Columbia Common.
Another 700,000 to 800,000 square feet of residential and office space is planned to be built above the retail space.
Columbia Commons represents only about a quarter to a third of the entire campus.
Downtown student housing: Columbia’s downtown student housing boom will be full speed ahead in 2015, with no fewer than six projects springing out of the ground, for a total of 5,658 beds.
Projects are planned at the corner of Assembly and Blossom streets, Assembly Street across from the State House, two on Pulaski Street and one along Harden at Gervais. Those are in addition to The Hub at Columbia, an 850-bed comlex already completed in the old 21-story Palmetto Center along Main Street, as well as a new 790-bed student apartment complex planned for National Guard Road near Williams-Brice Stadium.
Developers are bulding the student housing because the University of South Carolina has grown by 25 percent in the past decade, to 32,000 students. The influx of those thousands of students living in the downtown area will also have a spinoff effect – more bars, restaurants, stores and services.
Building boom: The student housing projects are helping to drive the biggest construction boom in Columbia’s history. More than $1 billion in construction projects have been built, are under construction or have been announced since 2011. And downtown boosters say no end is in sight, because the figure doesn’t include any of the potential Bull Street projects.
The biggest project on the horizon outside of Bull Street is the $100 million Kline Center planned for Huger and Gervais streets, which includes a 280-unit apartment complex, offices, retail and a free-standing hotel. USC also is building a new $80 million law school along Gervais Street.
Killian’s Crossing: Plans for Killian’s Crossing in Northeast Richland are underway and should gain momentum this year.
The planned lifestyle center, to be located at Clemson and Farrow roads, will offer multifamily and single-family residential units, hotel space along with retail space and out parcels. A McDonalds has been completed, and work should start on a new Kroger grocery center.
Budget cuts: With the end of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is in the process of drastically cutting personnel and budgets. That likely will have profound effects on the Midlands’ and state’s military installations.
For instance, the number of new soldiers trained at Fort Jackson, the nation’s largest Army basic training installation, would drop to about 17,000 a year from 45,000, if worst-case staffing cuts contemplated by the Army are implemented, according to the post commander. Another 27,000 soldiers receiving advanced training in tenant missions, such as the drill sergeant school and the chaplain’s school, also would be heavily affected.
But no one knows for sure and that uncertainty could continue for a year, until Congress decides whether to let $1.2 trillion in budget cuts – half to the military, half to domestic spending, called the sequester – kick in.
Military bills: South Carolina is host to six major military installations in four military communities – which along with the National Guard, retirees and defense contractors pump nearly $16 billion into the state’s economy each year.
Keeping those installations, missions, personnel and retirees is linked closely with how “military friendly” a state is. The S.C. General Assembly already has passed a series of bills that are favorable to the military, such as taxing property at the primary residence rate for deployed troops, and allowing professional license to travel into the state with an active duty service member or spouse.
However some bills advocated by the U.S. Department of Defense – such as exempting retirees from state income tax and establishing statewide veterans courts – are still up in the air. Passage of those bills could have an influence on decisions to close bases or move missions as budget cuts are enacted through 2017.
Shaw in the war: The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might have come to an end but the fighting hasn’t.
One squadron of F-16 fighter jets from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter deployed for the Middle East in October, where members have been conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. One pilot in the squadron was killed earlier this month when his jet apparently had a mechanical problem on takeoff.
Also, Shaw is home to both U.S. Army Central and U.S. Air Forces Central. The two commands continue to plan, equip and supply troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. They are the Army and Air Force components of U.S. Central Command, headquartered in Tampa, Fla.