Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is defending City Council's vote this week to move ahead with the Bull Street property redevelopment.
Concerns have been expressed about the lack of a master plan for transforming the former State Hospital campus into a mix of stores, office space, residential units and more.
But Benjamin says the city will be keeping a close eye on Greenville developer Bob Hughes.
“We'll have focused staff on the project,” the mayor says. “We've appointed a committee of citizens – seven people representing the business community, representing the small business community, representing minority business owners, representing the historic community and also representing our downtown neighborhoods – who will help us make sure that all the benchmarks that have been set, all the accountability and some of the preservation benchmarks that have been set will be adhered to.”
Speaking Wednesday on WVOC's “Afternoon Rush” program, Benjamin countered critics who question whether Columbia can afford to sink millions of dollars into the private project.
The mayor says the city's in good financial shape because of increased efficiency and cutting expenses. And he says it's important to bring new jobs and tax revenue from property that's never been on the tax rolls.
“At some point we've got to decide that we're going to grow this city. We're going to grow it by being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars, but we've got to grow it by believing in the city and investing in our city,” Benjamin says.
“So, for those who love to say, 'You're not doing this, you're not doing that,' I don't care to hear from the nattering nabobs of negativity. This city is going to grow and we're going to make sure it grows and we're going to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars as we do it.”