COLUMBIA, S.C. (SCRN/WVOC) - Columbia City Council has voted 4-to-2 in favor of a deal with Greenville developer Bob Hughes to transform the old State Hospital campus near downtown.
During a packed six-hour public hearing on Tuesday, opponents expressed concerns about the lack of a master plan and the amount of taxpayer money that could be involved in the private project – anywhere from $31-million to more than $70-million.
The executive director of the group Historic Columbia, Robin Waites, doesn't like that only five of the 45 buildings on the historic site may be preserved.
“You're signing the demolition permit on an irreplaceable segment of our city's and our state's history,” Waites told council members. “So not only do you give a green light to the wrecking ball with this vote, but we are then going to pay for it.”
Others, like Columbia engineer Eric Dickey, said they hope some kind of development will happen on the deserted 181 acres fronting Bull Street.
“Right now, this property's not a place where I want to bring my daughters down to after dark. Hopefully one day it will be,” Dickey said.
Some council members tried to postpone a final vote, but the majority sided with Mayor Steve Benjamin, who said officials needed to act immediately because the city's contract with the developer expires this month.
The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce forecasts the redevelopment will ultimately create 11,000 permanent jobs, bring in $20-million in new revenue for local government and schools, and boost the regional economy to the tune of more than $1-billion.
The project is expected to be a mixed-use neighborhood that will include stores, office space, residential units and possibly a minor league baseball stadium.