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Columbia considers apartments, commercial space in Devine Street tower near Five Points

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The former state office building at 2221 Devine St., now owned by the city of Columbia. City leaders are considering a proposal to redevelop the property as apartments and commercial space. Stephen Fastenau/Staff

COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia is considering a proposal to transform an office tower overlooking Five Points into apartments and commercial space instead of a hotel as originally planned.

The city bought the six-story building at 2221 Devine St. from the state for $3.8 million in June 2019 with plans to encourage a mixed-use development with a possible hotel.

But with the hospitality business taking a hit amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the proposal city officials are considering is from a developer who plans to renovate the building into residential units that could be attractive for young professionals and empty-nesters looking for low-maintenance living in town, said City Councilman Will Brennan, whose district includes Five Points and the office building that once housed the state's election and probation agencies.

The commercial space could include offices, shops or restaurants, he said.

The terms of the deal are yet to be finalized and require City Council approval. The hope is the city will sell the building for at least what it paid and add the longtime government-owned building to the city tax rolls, Brennan said.

"That's how I would hope to see it go and hope that's how it's trending," Brennan said.

The city talked privately about the proposal during an executive session June 1. Brennan said a purchase agreement will come before council for approval in July. The name of the developer and details of the proposal have not been released.

City officials are still negotiating the potential deal and won't reveal the terms or buyer, city spokeswoman Leshia Utsey said June 8.

The 46-year-old building includes a two-level parking garage, with more than 300 spaces total.

Redeveloping the former government building could be a piece in what some in the area hope is a larger revival in the historic village district that has seen popular bars and restaurants close and storefronts darken.

The nightlife hot spot for college students has been the focus of an effort by state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Columbia, and the University of South Carolina targeting the liquor licenses of numerous bars in the district while local officials aim to encourage what they perceive as more family- friendly development.

The vacated Wells Fargo Building at Saluda and Blossom streets is another redevelopment target that could become apartments or a boutique hotel.

"I think it's going to be an exciting year for Five Points," Brennan said.

Reach Stephen Fastenau at 803-365-3235. Follow him on Twitter @StephenFastenau.

Columbia reporter

Stephen Fastenau is a local government reporter covering the City of Columbia, Richland County and general assignments. He returned to Columbia after 10 years as a reporter at The Island Packet and is a University of South Carolina graduate.

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