Boutique bowling, anyone – on Main Street downtown?
A Columbia developer says yes.
The principal owners of the buildings that house Michael’s Cafe & Catering and Agape Physicians Care in the 1600 block of Main Street have plans for a six-lane bowling alley and entertainment center in the former Army Navy Store building across the street, developer Greg Middleton said Monday.
The Army Navy Store, which closed Saturday, occupied the two-story, 13,000-square-foot property at 1619 and 1621 Main St. The building also formerly included Salina’s Cafe, which closed last year.
Scott Middleton, Greg’s father, is the CEO of Agape Senior, which operated 13 senior care facilities across the state until they were sold recently.
The proposed layout of the bowling alley is preliminary, Greg Middleton said, but currently includes a restaurant on the ground floor, an “over-sized” bar, and plenty of game space for pool tables, shuffleboards, leather couches and seating.
The bowling alley is planned across the rear of the building, which would feature projectors and wall-mounted televisions throughout, Middleton said. About 3,000 square feet of space upstairs will be turned into two apartments that Middleton said he and his father plan to move into.
The building also features a 2,500-square-foot basement that may become a bar/arcade or be used as rental space for parties and other gatherings, Middleton said. The plan includes room for a courtyard, too.
“It’s exciting,” said Middleton, 26, a Winthrop University graduate and a newlywed. He’s been told by others that the concept is being developed in Greenville, Charleston and Charlotte.
“We’re going to do it right, just like we did this building,” Middleton said of the Agape-Michael’s complex.
Renovation of the building will cost an estimated $4 million to $5 million, Middleton said, and take 12 months to complete. A loan for the renovation is in the final stages of approval, he said, and final plans could go to the city soon.
Work on the second floor of the structure would begin this month if the city approves, Middleton said.
The city’s Design/Development Review Commission will have final say over whether the project is approved, because the downtown district has a historical designation. Tax documents say the building was constructed in 1944, but Middleton said it is much older.
Historic Columbia also has interest in the planned renovations, though discussions between the city and the developer have not gotten underway, the organization said.
“Downtown and Main Street, specifically, have been the beneficiary of both developer and community interest in recent years, and this project is yet another example of this,” said Sean Stucker, Historic Columbia facilities director.
Significant state and federal tax credits also are available for the project, Middleton said, which could help cover 40 percent to 60 percent of the renovation costs, he said. “This is the perfect time to do it. The tax credits make it extremely financially (viable). Without the tax credits, there would be no way of doing something like this,” he said.
GSM Properties LLC is listed as the owner of the former Army Navy Store and Salina’s Cafe property. The property was purchased in October 2015 for $500,000, Richland County tax records show. Principals in GSM Properties are Greg Middleton, his father, and sister, Sara, a student at the USC School of Law, according to Greg Middleton.
The 1600 block of Main Street has undergone one of the most noticeable transformations in the downtown area, with the addition of Michael’s and Good Life, which feature dining alfresco, and Agape Senior. Middleton said both restaurants have strong business during the day but fall off by about half at night.
Middleton hopes nearby parking garages will help the bowling alley appeal to both downtown residents within walking distance of the venue and customers who drive downtown and park.
“This is a phenomenal building and there are a lot of possibilities,” said Andrew Zalkin, owner of the Army Navy Store, which plans to move to West Columbia. “I hope it will be as successful as they want it to be. It’s a new era for Main Street.”
Right now, the developers are toying with several names for the bowling alley, including Lanes on Main, though nothing is official. “It gets the point across – there is a bowling alley and it’s on Main Street,” Middleton said.
But downtown as a residential destination is still one of the main driving forces behind the bowling alley concept.
“Everyone’s really excited about moving downtown,” Middleton said. The hope is that residents of The Hub, a student housing complex in the 1400 block of Main Street, will travel to the 1600 block, he said.
“People are wanting to be down here, and when they (are), they want somewhere to go,” Middleton said. “I really hope that it increases night-time traffic. We are hoping the bowling alley will give people another reason to make the 1600 block of Main Street a destination.”
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398