First Presbyterian Church is the latest downtown Columbia congregation to reach out with a new facility to the city center’s growing population of students.
First Presbyterian paid $4.1 million to buy the former SCE&G building – with its signature mosaic tile murals – on Marion Street, across the street from the church.
The church has hired David Henderson, an ex-University of South Carolina campus ministry worker, to lead its collegiate outreach program, First Presbyterian senior minister, the Rev. Derek Thomas, said Friday.
The program to attract college students is to be ready by the start of the fall school year, Thomas said. Henderson worked in USC’s campus ministry program from 2004 through 2010, when he took a similar job at Vanderbilt University.
Thomas said plans for the the three-story, 32,000-square-foot building, formerly a SCE&G customer service center, have not been finalized. A church committee is putting together a formal plan. However, the building probably will include a student library, meeting spaces and a coffee shop.
No major exterior renovation is scheduled for the mid-20th-century modern structure, but some undetermined interior changes are to be made, Thomas said.
Earlier this month, First Baptist Church said it plans to remodel the YMCA building on downtown’s Sumter Street for its congregation’s middle school, high school and college students. The 7,000-member church wants to attract USC students – including more than 800 living in The Hub on Main Street – as well as young professionals, church leaders said.
First Baptist is a block from The Hub, the first new downtown student housing complex to open among several that are under construction or planned. Altogether, 5,600 students are projected to live in the city center within a couple of years.
The SCE&G building is noteworthy because it was designed by now-retired architect Phelps Bultman, who also designed parts of the original Dreher High School, the original Columbia Metropolitan Airport and Edens Library at Columbia College, said local architect Tom Savory.
Bultman, who grew up in Sumter, earned a master’s degree in architecture from Yale University, said Savory, who considers Bultman a friend. Bultman was fundamental in establishing Columbia’s preservationist movement, Savory said.
The former SCE&G building’s eye-catching mosaic murals were the work of Catherine Rembert, he said.
SCE&G bought the building at Marion and Lady streets in 1970. It had been on the market since October. First Presbyterian completed its purchase of the building May13, according to the deed.
In January, SCE&G moved its customer service operation to a new building on Flora Street, off Assembly Street near the abandoned Capital City Stadium site.