A 10-screen “luxury” cinema at The Commons at BullStreet is the first announced retail anchor for the retail complex planned at the former S.C. State Hospital grounds and should spur more announcements.
The chief operating officer of Cobb Theaters said he expects a string of announcements for the planned 85-store district during the next two years. The theater — which will also include a bar and full-service restaurant — is expected to be completed by summer of 2018 along with the rest of the complex.
“We’re getting this teed up, and others are going to follow,” Frank Stryjewski said. “The packaging of the entire project ... is something we’re counting on and believe in. We are confident it is all going to the come together in the way we imagine. This will bring critical mass to what’s coming next.”
The redevelopment of the old state hospital’s 181-acre campus is considered the biggest land deal in Columbia history — one that could transform a downtown that is already in a state of incredible growth. The retail area is located on the northwest side of the sprawling campus, covering about one-fifth of the property.
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The project is being built by Greenville master developer Bob Hughes of Hughes Development, considered the architect of that city’s downtown revival.
Hughes’ real estate brokers, Hughes Commercial Properties of Greenville and Miami-based Lennar Commercial, is advertising The Commons at BullStreet as a mixed-use development that includes up to 85 total storefronts with 400,000 square feet of retail space, 275 apartments, 50,000 to 75,000 feet of office space and a 150-room hotel.
The entire 181-acre redevelopment project envisions 3,500 residential units and 1.3 million square feet of office space to be built over 20 years.
The theater would be located near Colonial Drive about two blocks east of Bull Street and a block away from the entrance to the new $37 million, 8,500-seat Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team.
Construction of the entire retail complex should begin in 2017. The kickoff will trigger the construction of two city-owned parking garages, according to Bob McAlister, spokesman for Hughes Development..
First downtown multiplex
Retailers often hold announcements close to their vests to not tip off competitors to their plans — hence the lack of announcements for The Commons at BullStreet so far, recruiters have said.
Stryjewski said his company — an entertainment venue rather than a typical retailer — made its announcement two years from the completion date for just the opposite reason.
“The movie theater business is unique,” he said. “We would like the other theaters to know our plans. They’ll know another theater is coming into the area and it may give them pause.”
Also, the theater will be a primary anchor, creating foot traffic, and the announcement “let’s the other tenants know their numbers will work,” Stryjewski said.
Cobb Luxury 10 will be the first ever theater with more than two screens to come into downtown Columbia. The closest are the Regal Columbia Cinema 7 at Richland Mall, Wynnsong 10 on Forest Drive near Interstate 77, AMC Dutch Square 14 at Dutch Square Mall off of Intestate 126.
Downtown presently only has one theater, the two-screen Nickelodeon art house on Main Street.
Stryjewski said the company was attracted to the Bull Street site because of its location near the city center. Bull Street “is a destination for the region that will bring people downtown,” he said. “And we will have a very prominent location.”
Robert Hughes, chief operating officer of Hughes Development, called the announcement a major milestone in the Bull Street project.
“This announcement for the retail development within BullStreet fits perfectly with our vision of a family friendly environment where people from all walks of life can experience a first‐class city within a city,” he said.
‘Ahead of schedule’
Other projects for the Bull Street area include:
▪ The $37-million, mostly taxpayer funded Spirit Communications Park, which began hosting the Class A Fireflies in April. The team has already shattered the city pro baseball attendance record for a season.
▪ The First Base Building, an office building built in concert with the baseball park. The Columbia office of the Ogletree Deakins law firm occupies the top floor of the First Base Building. Three floors of that building are still available.
In addition to the 85,000 square feet of office space, the building has 25,000 square feet of retail space, enough to house two or more restaurants, Hughes has said.
▪ Two historic buildings — The Bakery and Parker Annex — have been renovated. Renovation of a third, the asylum’s former morgue, called Ensor Building, is underway.
▪ Partners also plan to renovate the Babcock Building into apartments.
▪ Another partner is awaiting approval from Richland County Council on a student housing project.
Wednesday’s announcement by Cobb Theatres “exemplifies the success our retail development partner is having and we are energized by their progress,” Hughes said. “BullStreet as a whole is still a 20‐year project, but we are ahead of schedule and are excited for what lies ahead.”
New trend in the industry
The Cobb Luxury 10 Theatre aims to capitalize on a new trend in the theater industry – catering more to adults.
It will boast 10 screens with all reserved, oversized and overstuffed electric reclining seats. And the full service restaurant and bar will offer “creative” American Bistro cuisine, according to a news release.
The theater will feature hand-crafted pizzas and a bar selling beer and wine “to those who may or may not be there to enjoy a movie,” the release said.
“The culinary and food and beverage side has become more and more sophisticated,” Stryjewski said, “particularly in areas where there would be foot traffic” from other stores and venues.
Cobb Theatres operates 269 screens at 23 locations throughout the southeastern United States. Cobb is an innovator in “out-of-home” entertainment, according to the release, offering family venues such as CinéBistro, an in-theater dining concept geared toward adults. It is currently being developed around the country with locations opening in 2016 at The Rotunda, Baltimore, Md., and at City Place Doral in Doral, Fla.
Cobb’s Luxury brand was introduced at Liberty Center in Liberty Township, Ohio. It will open its third Luxury location at Daytona One in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Commons at BullStreet by the Numbers
▪ 400,000 square feet of retail space
▪ 50,000 to 75,000 square feet of office space
▪ 275 apartments
▪ 150- room boutique hotel