A study on the economic impact of redeveloping the former State Hospital campus near downtown Columbia puts forth some impressive numbers.
The city has a proposed deal with Greenville developer Bob Hughes to transform the 181 acres into a mixed-use neighborhood that could feature housing, stores, a hotel and even a minor league ballpark.
The city would spend some $70-million to help bring that about.
The impact study conducted for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce predicts that over the 20-year build-out period, economic activity of more than $1.2-billion per year would generated, with more than 11,000 jobs when completed and more than $20-million in property taxes each year for local governments and schools.
Chamber chief executive Ike McLeese calls the Bull Street property a “game-changer” for downtown Columbia.
“That type of economic activity will stimulate more retail downtown. I think you will see some rather significant retailers in the Bull Street village itself,” McLeese says.
“It will help accelerate the growth of Main Street, which is already going along fairly well. The economic impact – while centered in the downtown area – will reverberate throughout the entire region.”
City Council plans to vote twice and hold two public hearings in a little over a week before finalizing the redevelopment deal. But some wonder why the rush when it took years to put the proposed deal together.
At least two city council members and various organizations are calling for the approval process to slow down.
But McLeese says that's only a delay tactic and may cause the developer to back out.
“Mr. Hughes' option to purchase the property from the Department of Mental Health expires July 31st,” McLeese explains. “I don't think he is inclined to extend that.”
“If the city council can't approve it and get it done and get it moving, I think he's willing to just let it revert back to the state. And that would not be good. It'd be a huge loss for downtown Columbia.”
Council's first vote and public hearing on the deal was this afternoon.
The second meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on July 9th at the Earlewood Park Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive.