Bull Street details emerge in chamber economic analysis

Members of the Historic Columbia Foundation gather by what is known simply as the "Robert Mills Building" on the Department of Mental Health's Bull Street campus in downtown Columbia.  The building, completed in 1828, is the original structure built on the site.
Members of the Historic Columbia Foundation gather by what is known simply as the "Robert Mills Building" on the Department of Mental Health's Bull Street campus in downtown Columbia. The building, completed in 1828, is the original structure built on the site.

What the proposed Bull Street neighborhood might look like became a little clearer Thursday: It would feature three times as much rental housing as owner-occupied homes, enough retail to attract shoppers from outside the neighborhood and a small hotel.

Plans are to build 3 million square feet of rented housing, 550,000 square feet of owner-owned homes and 580,000 square feet of retail, according to an economic impact analysis conducted for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber on Thursday released findings by Columbia economist Harry Miley, whom it hired to conduct the study of what backers describe as a project so vast it will transform the city center.

Miley said under questioning by reporters during a news conference that he did not calculate the cost to taxpayers to provide public utilities or to staff and maintain municipal services during the 20 years that the mixed-use neighborhood would take to build.

Miley’s analysis found the project would spin off $1.2 billion per year eventually into the local economy if a baseball stadium is built.

His report disclosed for the first time details provided to Miley by Greenville developer Bob Hughes that Hughes has not previously released to the public. Until Thursday, Columbia residents had only general information that Hughes Development Corp.’s planned to build up to 3,558 residential units and 3.3 million square feet of commercial property on the 181-acre site.

A Hughes spokesman has said Hughes will discuss his plans in greater detail after City Council gives its final approval to a development agreement that was released this week. The second and deciding vote is scheduled to be on Tuesday, July 9.

On Thursday, Columbians learned that Hughes’ plan also includes 500,000 square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of medical facilities, 250,000 square feet for townhouses and 200,000 square feet inside the Babcock Building, the property’s signature structure, according to figures Miley released during a news conference to detail his findings.

Hughes’ plan also calls for a 70-room, 70,000-square-foot hotel, and an equal amount of space for what Miley called “civic” buildings. The Hughes company did not clarify what it considers civic space, but it does not include structures that are not taxable such as those owned by non-profit groups, Miley said.

No further details were available Thursday.

Miley’s overall findings indicate that during the 20 years, the expansive neighborhood would:

•  Produce 11,020 jobs annually, directly and indirectly. Those jobs would provide income of $581.1 million.

•  Generate $19.9 million in property taxes annually by the 20th year for the city of Columbia, Richland County and the Richland 1 school district. In the shorter term, or five years, the annual property taxes would amount to $6.5 million.

“If (property) values go up, and (tax) millage goes up, these values are understated,” Miley said.

“When all of these impacts are combined, the economic impacts of the development of Bull Street are impressive” he wrote in the report, which was released within three days of city leaders announcing that a key development agreement with Hughes had been reached.

Miley’s analysis included the spinoff effects of having a minor league baseball stadium in the neighborhood, which he said could “further enhance and speed up these impacts.”

He cited Greenville’s experience at Fluor Field, which Upstate business leaders say has helped prompt 48 new businesses to open, including 17 restaurants and bars, 10 new retailers and other businesses.

Chamber director Ike McLeese said his organization supports Hughes’ plan for the property, calling it an economic “game changer” for the capital city.

Mayor Steve Benjamin said the jobs and the surge in Columbia’s economy would serve residents as well as the business community.

“Imagine the potential of 1 percent unemployment in Richland County,” Benjamin told the crowd at chamber headquarters. “If you’re looking for a reason to bring your business downtown, this is it.”

Highlights of findings

An economic impact study commissioned by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce of the proposed Bull Street neighborhood, projects a local boom in jobs and new businesses. Some of the findings* include:

Overall economic activity

$1.2 billion yearly

$714 million yearly would be direct activity

$495 million yearly would be indirect


10,020, with an average salary of more than $59,000

6,000-plus of the jobs would be directly related to the development

About 4,000 would be indirect jobs.


Between $6.5 million annually by the fifth year and $19.9 million yearly by the 20th year.

City’s share in Year 5: $1.4 million; in Year 20: $4.4 million

County’s share in Year 5: $718,000; in Year 20: $2.2 million

Richland 1’s share in Year 5: $3.5 million; in Year 20: $10.6 million

SOURCE: The Economic Impact of the Transformation of the Bull Street Property analysis. Numbers are rounded.

If you go

Columbia City Council has scheduled two meetings in July to consider a key agreement that would clear the way for construction to begin on the huge Bull Street neighborhood. The agreement needs two ‘yes’ votes to be approved.

First meeting

When: Monday, July 1, at 2 p.m.

Where: Eau Claire print building, 3907 Ensor Ave. at Monticello Road.

Second meeting

When: Tuesday, July 9, at 2 p.m.

Where: Earlewood Park Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive

Read the economic impact study