A plan that would redevelop the old Capital City Stadium site on Assembly Street is among the projects that will seek to take advantage of a significant new tax break being jointly offered by Richland County and the City of Columbia.
The two governments recently agreed to offer major tax breaks for big investments. They're offering a 10-year, up to 50 percent joint property tax break for large commercial and residential projects that exceed $30 million in investment. Developers must spend the money saved on infrastructure improvements.
The city owns the Capital City Stadium site located at 301 S. Assembly St. — for decades home to professional baseball, but now long-vacant — and has, for years, sought to redevelop the property.
In June, the city agreed to a contract with Weddle Real Estate Investments for the ballpark property. In the agreement, the city said it would sell the property to the developer for roughly $1.65 million. There are a host of conditions in the deal, including that $60,000 will go to Historic Columbia “for the specific purpose of funding a documentary of Capital City Stadium, as well as site preparation and event staffing for an on-site ‘last tour’ event before the demolition” of the ballpark.
Subsequently, Weddle Real Estate Investments has hatched plans to eventually put apartments and retail on the property. Site plans show more than 300 apartments there, along with 20,000 square feet of retail space. Documents also show the complex would have a pool, a basketball court, a clubhouse and other amenities. The development is currently being called The Ballpark.
City and county leaders — including Mayor Steve Benjamin, Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine and Richland County Council Chairman Paul Livingston, among others — formally rolled out their new tax incentive collaboration during a July 30 ceremony at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
A number of developers were in attendance at the event, including Weddle Real Estate Investments partner Jim Shine.
While he said finer details would need to be worked out, Shine said the incentives partnership between the county and city could benefit the redevelopment of the old stadium site. He says Weddle does intend to take advantage of the tax breaks.
"I think this is a great beginning," Shine tells Free Times. "It's important to have cooperation between the city and the county. This is kind of a landmark. What comes out of it, I think, is going to be the specifics. Our project is the example of the type of project that needs this type of operation in order to be successful."
Weddle Real Estate Investments has said it would do infrastructure improvements at the site, specifically as it relates to longtime flooding issues on the low-lying property, which is in a floodplain.
Shine says the work that needs to be done in that regard makes for a good match with the new city/county tax breaks, which call on developers to also provide infrastructure upgrades.
"Part of what we are doing, as part of the project we have, is tied to the flooding in Olympia and Rocky Branch," Shine says. "So, it's a perfect example of where there's a public interest that we have to satisfy in order to be able to move our project forward."
Benjamin touted the overall opportunities he thinks the new joint tax breaks could bring across the city and county.
"This is us joining forces to get more cranes in the sky across this city," Benjamin said July 30. "This day, working with our friends at the county to facilitate the types of development we want to see here in the city, with cranes in the sky, is a big day."
In order to receive the newly minted tax breaks, a developer needs approval from both city and county councils. The governments will stop offering the tax breaks in 2022.
Capital City Stadium 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. The team then moved to Lexington County, where it plays in Lexington County Baseball Stadium, which opened in 2015 on Ballpark Road.
The city has tried, in vain, to strike a firm deal to redevelop the site for about a decade. For a time there was talk of a Walmart at the Assembly Street property, but that idea was met with furious public backlash and was later scrapped. Then there were overtures to put a Kroger on the site, but that deal fell through in 2017 when the grocer's profits took a hit.