A developer on Thursday received a green light to renovate the exterior of the historic but unused Columbia fire station in Columbia’s Vista entertainment district.
The city’s Design/Development Review Commission voted unanimously to approve Virginia-based Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust’s plans for exterior changes to the building, built between 1949 and 1951 as a fire station that once was headquarters for the Columbia Fire Department.
“It’s a very exciting project,” said Scott Lambert, whose firm, Lambert Architecture, is working on the renovation. “I think it’s one that folks in Columbia have been looking forward to seeing get developed for years now.”
Much of the work is restoration, though some new features are to be added. That includes new doors for the garage on the Senate Street side. The doors will serve as storefronts for new businesses that move into the building, Lambert said.
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Wheeler Real Estate has said it plans to develop the building it bought in July for nearly $2.4 million into a multi-use commercial space, and that several parties are interested in leasing space for office, restaurant and retail use.
The building is less than a block from the State House and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It closed in the mid-1990s. The city sold the property to a Columbia developer in what developed into a protracted struggle over financing.
In another matter on the design commission’s agenda, plans to discuss the first two buildings of the Kline City Center project planned for Huger and Gervais streets were postponed by the developer. Russ Davis of Homes Urban delayed a presentation until next month.
Davis said architects need more time to work with city planners on designs of the long-awaited redevelopment at the former Kline Iron and Steel Co. property on one of Columbia’s most high-visibility corners. “I wanted to get it right, so I asked my design team to go back and get these details right, that the D/DRC has asked for.”