Negotiations are underway that could lead to a residential and retail development at the old Capital City Stadium site on Assembly Street.
The City of Columbia owns the stadium and the property at 301 S. Assembly St. and has, for years, sought to redevelop the land. Georgia development company Bright Myers has long had a contract to purchase the land — its agreement with the city has been extended a dozen times — but various plans for redevelopment have stalled through the years.
Now, according to Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall and Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry, Bright Myers is conveying its agreement with the city to New York developer Andy Weddle, of Weddle Real Estate Investments. The city officials say the developer would pursue a mixed use development on the property, to include market rate apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail.
Duvall and Gentry each said the residential portion would not be the private student dormitory style units that have become seemingly ubiquitous in Columbia.
"It is market rate, not student," Duvall tells Free Times. "I would not be in favor if it was student." Neither Gentry or Duvall knew the exact number of residential units that would be involved, noting negotiations are still early.
Meanwhile, Weddle tells Free Times in a statement that he "looks forward to working with City and County Council through the approval process."
Gentry says the city and the developer are still in negotiations about the project, and that City Council would need to extend its previous agreement with Bright Myers to October go give some breathing room for due diligence. A vote on that extension would likely come in June.
The assistant city manager stressed the residential/retail proposal is still preliminary, as developers would have to have the property rezoned and gain various other governmental approvals before beginning.
And then there is the matter of Capital City Stadium.
Back in February, City Council approved an a measure to make way for the demolition of the stadium, which was initially built in 1927 and was host to a number of minor league and other teams throughout the years, including the Columbia Mets, who later became the Capital City Bombers in the 1990s. The most recent regular tenant of the park was the Columbia Blowfish, a wood bat summer collegiate squad.
The Blowfish last played at Capital City Stadium in 2014. Since then the summer collegiate squad has moved to Lexington County, where it plays in Lexington County Baseball Stadium, which opened in 2015 on Ballpark Road.
City officials say developers have asked to delay demolition of the stadium. Instead, developers would purchase the property with the stadium intact, then have it demolished. That would allow them to take advantage of the state’s abandoned building tax credit.
“The availability of the tax credit would go away if the structure is not in place at the time of the purchase,” Gentry says. “So, they are asking that we delay the demolition.”
Gentry stressed that the city is working with developers on a security plan for the stadium if demolition is delayed.
Officials say the abandoned building tax credit could be worth several million dollars for the South Assembly Street site, depending on how many separate structures are on the property. There would be a certification process to determine how many individual buildings are there.
The potential redevelopment of the stadium site has been a stop-and-start proposition for years.
There was once talk of putting a Walmart on the property near the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. But the community backlash against that idea was ferocious. The opposition to the Walmart was fueled, at least in part, by the Occupy Columbia protests on the State House grounds in late 2011.
The Walmart idea was scrapped, and eventually gave way to a plan to locate a Kroger grocery store on the ballpark site. The Kroger plan appeared to be gaining steam in 2016, as a key rezoning for the site was approved by the city.
However, in 2017 Kroger backed out, with city officials citing a “setback” in that company’s profits the previous budget year and heated competition from Walmart and others as a reason for the pullout.
Among the items under negotiation, Duvall says he is hopeful some land on the Assembly Street site could be set aside for a new fire station for Olympia.