Neighbors split ahead of contentious Millwood Starbucks drive-thru public hearing

A proposal for a Starbucks drive-thru on Millwood awaits zoning approval amid neighborhood contention

The proposal for Starbucks drive-thru development on Millwood Avenue will replace a shop that helps women in need find housing. The proposal awaits zoning approval amid neighborhood contention.
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The proposal for Starbucks drive-thru development on Millwood Avenue will replace a shop that helps women in need find housing. The proposal awaits zoning approval amid neighborhood contention.

A proposed development near several historic Columbia neighborhoods has detractors and supporters and both have a chance to air their opinions.

A public input session regarding a planned development with a Starbucks drive-thru on Millwood Avenue is scheduled for Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. on the third floor of City Hall at 1737 Main St.

Developers want to raze structures at 3017 and 3023 Millwood Ave. and build a 7,000-square-foot retail space that includes the chain coffee shop and other storefronts, according to a zoning application.

To build a drive-thru in the city of Columbia, developers must apply for a “special exception.” The city’s zoning division must approve any plans for a drive-thru beyond the regular permits needed for building. Part of that approval process is having a public input session.

The block is near the historically protected Melrose Heights and Heathwood neighborhoods and only blocks away from the Lyon Street Community.

The site houses Revente’s Second Chances, a shop that sells clothing to fund housing for women dealing with homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence. The Millwood corner also houses Groomingdales, a dog grooming business that’s called the block home for 25 years, according to the owner.

The property also features an aesthetically distinct mid-century structure that was, for decades, the storefront of a greenhouse run by the current property owners, Richland County records show.

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Some residents don’t want the businesses to be forced to move and question whether a Starbucks is right for their neighborhood.

“Bottom line, for a historic neighborhood like Melrose Heights or any neighborhood, we would love for local or national developers to care about and ask what we may desire and need in our communities,” Lee Ann Kornegay said.

The Historic Melrose Heights neighborhood association traces the community’s history back to the late 19th century, according to the association’s website. The neighborhood is known for its early 20th century and post-war homes that reflect historical shifts in Columbia and the United States. In 2003, the city of Columbia designated Melrose Heights an architectural conservation district, which helps to preserve the area’s historical character. Kornegay has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.

“We want things that respect our identity and history, that are aesthetically pleasing and things we can feel like we are a part of,” Kornegay said.

In its application for a drive-thru, the developer tries to address the suitability of the proposed use, saying, “The Millwood Corridor is an (eclectic) neighborhood with diverse business uses” and that the area doesn’t have a “‘single’ or dominant character of commercial activity.”

Supporters believe the new development could spur growth on Millwood and be an asset to the area rather than an incongruity.

“While I’m sad to see other businesses that our community has come to love have to relocate, I think that having that development on Millwood will bring some much needed change,” said Mary Curtis Twitty, who also lives in Melrose Heights. “My hope is that this will spark other businesses both small and large to come and continue the growth Millwood has seen over the last several years.”

Further down Millwood, the head of the Lyon Street Community Association, Marvin Heller, said he’s waiting to see the affects of the project.

“Along Millwood there are different types of neighborhoods and there are different historical perspectives,” Heller said. “And I don’t think that what’s necessarily good for what is up Millwood near Dreher (High School) is good for my neighborhood.”

Beyond another Starbucks up the road, he’s focused on getting developers to see potential down the street where he and his neighbors live.

“We don’t want to be the last ones developed,” Heller said. “Let’s develop us down here.”

David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.