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Columbia's construction industry is still at work with some coronavirus adjustments

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Homebuilding at Gonzales Gardens

Workers pour concrete at a building site in the redevelopment of the Gonzales Gardens public housing project on June 18 in Columbia. The site is slated to include a variety of housing options including market-rate and subsidized homes. Mike Fitts/Staff

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Columbia area builders have continued working, constructing new homes and commercial buildings across the Midlands, with minor disruption in available materials and workforce as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the state and beyond. 

"Just like every industry in our country, the building industry is feeling the effects of the current crisis," said Thom Chumney, co-owner of Southern Traditional Homes and president of the Building Industries Association of Central SC.

"Three months ago, we celebrated success of 2019," Chumney wrote in a letter to BIA members. "Never did I realize that such a challenge would hit us this year with such intensity."

The global pandemic has led to anxieties over the country's finances and the possible effects of recession on the housing market. It's also meant some adjustments to how construction crews do their work. But that doesn't mean they've stopped building.

"We have slowed our place provide a safe workplace," Chumney said of Southern Traditional's choice to limit the number of people on site at a time. "And we're encouraging other builders to do the same thing."

Municipalities have continued to work with builders on permitting and inspections, but with fewer staffers available, inspections being performed on a new schedule. Materials deliveries are taking a bit longer and fewer people on the job site delays how soon a home is finished.

In Columbia and the surrounding area, Chumney said, many builders construct homes speculatively. He estimates the split between speculative building and building for a specific property owner is about 60/40. Even with the majority of homes built without a specific buyer under contract, he said he doesn't think demand for the homes being built now will disappear as the federal government holds down interest rates and a Congressional stimulus package is in the works.

March is usually the month builders are ramping up production for the spring and summer selling season to make sure there is inventory to show and sell. Data for the number of residential building permits issued this month are not yet available but have averaged about 325 over the last four years. 

In February, 323 permits were issued and 601 permits have been issued so far this year. In all of 2019, 3,893 residential permits were issued around the four-county area, topping numbers from all three years prior.

Commercial construction is the same.

"At this point it's mostly business as usual with heightened safety precautions limiting contact," said Leslie Clark, vice president of the Carolinas Association of General Contractors. "And right now the supply chain seems to be holding its own.

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Clark said contracts have been signed and companies have already laid out work plans for the next couple months. The association is asking S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster to consider their industry "essential" should a shelter-in-place be issued in the state to slow the virus' spread.

More than 100,000 construction workers are employed in the Palmetto State.

City surveying small business

The city of Columbia's Office of Business Opportunities is asking small businesses what impacts they're feeling from the international coronavirus pandemic, as well as what they're needs might be.

Business owners are being asked to complete a survey, starting Friday, which will guide the city's response.

Downtown offices under new ownership

A Miami-based investment group has made its first purchase in the Capital City.

Galium Capital LLC, a private equity group, bought the downtown office building housing such tenants as PricewaterhouseCoopers, CBRE commercial real estate, South Carolina Education Lottery, South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission and Ameris Bank.

Built in 1983 at 1333 Main St., the building sold for more than $29 million.

“We see strong potential for the building’s long-term performance as well as the growth of the Downtown Columbia market, specifically on Main Street, over time, and are excited about this latest acquisition,” said Jonathan Slomianski, acquisitions associate at Galium Capital.

Huston Green from JLL commercial real estate helped sell the building on behalf of another private investment group, Boston-based Albany Road Real Estate Partners.

Do you know of a residential, commercial or industrial development in the Midlands that is opening, closing or expanding? Reach Jessica Holdman at

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