New Look For Meeting Street
By: Jeff Wilkinson
The Rivertown complex, to be built in an area once called “the pit,” will front Meeting and State streets and Alexander Road and feature 350 parking spaces on two internal decks.
The project, on four acres, is a huge step for West Columbia and the first retail, restaurant and office complex to be built adjacent to the Three Rivers Greenway. It’s a step experts say is needed to make the downtown riverfront thrive.
“It’s the first time in the Midlands that we will have office and retail and restaurants right next to the river,” developer Wade Caughman said. “You can work, shop, have a meal, walk on the riverwalk and just have fun.”
Caughman and partner Wes Taylor bought the property from West Columbia for $3.85 million in July. They made their presentation Tuesday to the West Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Caughman would not release the names of businesses that will locate there. But preliminary plans for the estimated $20 million project call for two restaurants — one with rooftop seating — a bank, a small health and organic food store, and other shops, he said.
The first floor would be exclusively retail and feature 20-foot-wide sidewalks for outdoor seating, he said. The second and third stories would be offices.
The complex also will have a gym and fitness center as a perk for office tenants, store owners and workers.
“And the billboards are coming down,” Caughman said of two large signs that some say have marred views of the Columbia skyline from the West Bank.
Most businesses on the western side of State Street will lose that popular skyline view. But owners knew whatever was built could block it.
Caughman said he plans to charge retail rates similar to those in Columbia’s Vista — perhaps $16 to $17 per square foot per month. He plans to sell office suites for about $180 per square foot, he said.
Area business owners said they liked the project.
“It’s going to bring the entire area back,” said Marilyn Gray, president of the West Metro Chamber of Commerce. “It will fill everything in and wake that area up.”
Marila and Trip Turbyfill, owners of Cafe Strudel on State Street, said the parking was particularly welcome.
“I think it will be good for everyone involved,” Trip Turbyfill said.
The West Columbia Riverwalk is arguably the most successful and well-used section of the Midlands’ Three Rivers Greenway.
The park and amphitheater have become popular gathering spots. And the riverwalk has significantly raised the value of adjacent property, said Mike Dawson, executive director of the River Alliance, a regional group of government and business representatives that guides development on the city’s three rivers.
“The pit used to have a tire store, a video poker parlor and a used car lot, so this is a vast improvement,” he said.
Those businesses “only paid about $1,500 a year in taxes to the city of West Columbia,” he said. “This will be a heckuva lot more. It’s fantastic.”
Source: The State Newspaper