Swanky new Columbia apartments have skyline views and a downtown pool

Your bedroom window could be a window to the heart of downtown, with vistas stretching for blocks or even miles, capturing steeples and rooftops and all the energy of a growing city, a famously hot sun shining on the floors of your apartment.

This 1940s office building turned modern, urban apartment complex could add hundreds of new residents to Columbia’s city center.

The $25 million project at the corner of Lady and Marion streets, dubbed 1321 Lofts, is one of the the largest non-student residential complexes to open in the city’s central business district. (Just outside the city center, the CanalSide apartment development is much larger, boasting more than 700 units and 1,000 residents.)

The 132 apartments at 1321 Lofts — including two split-level, rooftop penthouse units — will be available for leasing starting in February. Rented by longtime downtown residential company Capitol Places, the apartments range in size from 500-square-foot studios to a 1,900-square-foot three-bedroom unit.

Almost every apartment unit is uniquely configured. Some have balconies. Some have angular walls. Some have barn-style sliding doors. Some have expansive windows.

They’ll run anywhere from $950 to $2,100 in monthly rent.

“Our city looks like a thriving metropolis from this angle,” said Lee Mashburn, scanning the skyline from the window of a seventh-story apartment this week. Mashburn is the president of Columbia’s family-owned Mashburn Construction company, which headed up the 1321 Lofts project.

Downtown is seeing a sudden boom of apartments for professionals after several years of nonstop student housing construction.

A three-building complex in the same block as 1321 Lofts soon will be transformed into 109 apartments and retail space. A historic bakery-turned-inn is being converted to 29 small, boutique apartments in Five Points. Large apartment complexes ranging from 190 to 260 units are being considered at BullStreet and at the intersection of Huger and Blossom streets.

And just across the river in West Columbia and Cayce, apartments have opened at the new Brookland development and are under construction along the riverfront at the historic Guignard Brick Works site.

Once the 1321 Lofts are rented, they’ll bring the total residential population in the 36-block Main Street district to around 1,600, according to data from the City Center Partnership.

Capitol Places apartments were the first to pioneer living on Main Street 20 years ago, before downtown was cool again.

After opening several apartment complexes in refurbished old buildings over the years, Capitol Places is essentially doubling its apartment count with the opening of 1321 Lofts.

“We think it’s the most unique product we’ve done to date,” said Jeff Prioreschi, co-founder of Capitol Places. “Now, it’s a lot easier sell to live downtown than when we first opened.”

It took almost five years from announcing plans for 1321 Lofts to opening the building, thanks in part to a lengthy financing process that included securing historic and abandoned building tax credits, without which the project would not have been financially feasible, Mashburn said.

Unlike Capitol Places’ other downtown apartments, such as the Kress building across from the Columbia Museum of Art or the Lofts at Lourie’s above Mast General Store, 1321 Lofts boasts a small outdoor pool, a game room and a fitness center, all of which will be available to all Capitol Places tenants.

“Typically, when you’re in these downtown apartments, your amenity is downtown,” Mashburn said. These apartments will add a little something extra to that, he said.

The eight-story Lady Street building is formally known as the Owen Building, completed in mid-century modern style in 1949.

Used for decades as an office building, including for the Southern Bell Telegraph and Telephone Company, the Owen Building was hailed as a skyline changer, one of the first so-called “skyscrapers” built in Columbia after World War II.

Its original construction cost was estimated at $800,000, or about $8.2 million in modern dollars. That’s roughly a third of what it cost to renovate the building into apartments 70 years later.