Developer calls off plans for Main Street tower

Plans for a controversial student-apartment high-rise tower on South Main Street have come tumbling down.

EdR, the project’s Memphis, Tenn.-based developer, said Wednesday that it decided to end plans to buy the 1.26-acre site at College and Main streets after protests from the University of South Carolina.

The broker who oversaw the deal said other college-housing developers might avoid Columbia after EdR’s experience.

USC fought the proposed 15-story tower saying it would put a shadow at times over the school’s iconic Horseshoe, which could damage the trees and lawn. The university launched a website with an online petition opposing the project.

EdR, which owns and manages complexes outside 57 colleges, disputed USC’s claims. The developer and university were negotiating a compromise, but EdR said reducing the size of the 704-bed tower would not make the $60 million project work for the company’s bottom line.

“We have investigated a variety of options, and even researched reducing the height of the building by expanding the footprint onto land adjacent to our location,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “But we were simply not able to make the numbers work to create a financially feasible development at a lower height.

“While we believe this community would have done much to revitalize and drive the growth of the South Main District, it was also obvious to us that this development would not be welcomed by a vocal contingent of the university and the local communities,” the developer said. “In our company’s 51 years, we have created and built our business and reputation around mutually beneficial and long-term partnerships with universities and cities across the country. We prefer to invest our time and resources toward positive opportunities that are well received.”

Josh Speed, a broker with Newmark Grubb Wilson Kibler in Columbia who was negotiating the deal with EdR, said the company was not looking at other spots in town.

After USC’s protests against EdR’s project, Speed said he “would not be surprised” that other college-housing developers would avoid Columbia.

Columbia has seen a sharp rise in apartment projects aimed at the growing student population at USC with projects surrounding the campus on Huger, North Main, Assembly and Pulaski streets.

Nearly 6,000 students are expected to move into new 10 complexes over the next three years.

The university has joined in the development by partnering with Holder Properties of Atlanta on a 884-bed project behind Carolina Coliseum. The first phase opened in August.

The EdR tower was the first to run into significant opposition.

A 15-story tower would have been taller than most buildings nearby. But The Cornell Arms apartments — across the Sumter Street from campus and a block away from the Horseshoe — is 18 stories tall.

Plans for the project to go before the city of Columbia’s Design/Development Review Commission had been delayed this summer while the company and USC were trying try to reach a compromise on the size of the tower.

Efforts to reach a USC spokesman were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Part of the site planned for the tower — a half-acre that includes Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs — is back on the market again for $2.5 million, Speed said. He expects interest from retail and restaurant developers.