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Columbia panel rejects plans for convenience store on north edge of downtown district

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Proposed Murphy Express (copy)

Several parcels along Elmwood Avenue near the corner with Bull Street would be brought together for the location of a new Murphy Express convenience store and gas station. Mike Fitts/Staff

COLUMBIA — A bid by Murphy Express to demolish several buildings along Elmwood Avenue to put a new convenience store and gas station on the edge of the Main Street District has been rebuffed by the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals on a 3-3 vote on Thursday.

Among the six buildings that would have been replaced under Murphy's plan: the longtime No Name Deli location.

With the rezoning measure rejected, the restaurant intends to stay open in the location at Marion and Elmwood, an employee said Tuesday.

Murphy sought to demolish several small buildings near  Marion, Elmwood and Bull Streets to build a 10-pump gas station and store, but nearby neighbors complained about another convenience store on a street that already has four. Neighborhood groups said that they thought the store would contribute to issues of loitering, litter and alcohol abuse in their community.

Representatives of Murphy argued that they were being taken to task for issues already affecting the neighborhood, and that their station would be clean and well-lit, with no tolerance of loitering or on-premises consumption of beer and wine. 

"Nothing Murphy will do will make that problem worse," said attorney Drew English, representing Murphy. 

Members of the board who voted against Murphy's plan were focused on another issue: whether the project made the Elmwood corridor over-concentrated with convenience stores. 

The board had to abide by its rule that forbids making such a concentration worse, argued board member George Schafer. Board chairman Chuck Salley favored the zoning change, arguing that the benefits of bringing revitalization and a top-level store operator to the area far outweighed the harm of another gas station.

In the end, the vote on the measure tied 3-3 with member Josh Speed absent. Murphy could seek a rehearing of the case or appeal the decision to administrative court.

Fitness comes to Main Street

After the news come sports: Alpha One Fitness studio is moving into the longtime former Free Times/Post and Courier offices at 1534 Main St.

Alpha One will offer such activities as high-intensity interval training and barre workouts, according to its website. The building will include a recovery area and a juice and snack bar.

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The gym is to open Oct. 19. The gym has been taking part in Soda City Market on Saturdays and is planning a grand opening for Nov. 2..

High-end pizza in Kilbourne Heights

Steve Cook, owner of the Five Points fine dining restaurant Saluda’s, is opening a pizza restaurant with a focus on carryout and delivery, believing that the coronavirus might have changed dining habits going forward.

Il Bucato will be a a to-go only restaurant, serving pizza, pasta and sub shop on Beltline Boulevard in the Kilbourne Heights neighborhood. While Cook says the plans for the new spot, which he hopes to open in October, were in the works before the pandemic, he said it’s now an “ideal project.”

It’s a far cry from his white table cloth spot in Five Points, which mainly caters to special occasions with pricey bills to match. The new restaurant is being made in the mold where a family can buy food there regularly, Cook said. It will serve New York-style pizzas in the $20 range, with large, fine-dining-esque salads for about $12 and daily rotating pasta specials.

USC fills hotel for quarantine

The University of South Carolina is renting an entire hotel in downtown Columbia to house students quarantined with COVID-19 as case counts continue to rise on campus.

The school, which at more than 1,700 positive cases since Aug. 1 has one of the highest COVID-19 counts of any college in the country, signed a one-month lease with Marriott’s SpringHill Suites, located in the Vista entertainment district near campus.

The cost of the contract was not immediately available but the school will cover the additional dollars rather than passing it on to students, spokesman Jeff Stensland said.

David Clarey and Jessica Holdman contributed to this report.

Do you know of a business project in the Midlands that is being launched? Reach Mike Fitts at mfitts@postandcourier.com.

Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikefittsat140

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