1st residential housing in Bull Street neighborhood to be for students
Originally published Dec. 17, 2015 at: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article50356390.html
BY CLIF LEBLANC
Student housing is coming to the Bull Street neighborhood with about a $55 million, six-building campus of apartment and townhouses that are markedly different from the high-rises that most other new complexes have offered.
The developer, Haven Campus Communities of Atlanta, plans to build 234 apartments on almost 6.5 acres at Gregg and Barnwell streets off Calhoun Street, which is the southern boundary of BullStreet Common, according to architectural drawings that Haven submitted to city planners. The site is beyond the centerfield sight line of the city-owned baseball stadium that is scheduled to open in April, but doesn’t abut the stadium.
The project includes a tiered, 608-space parking deck and 104 street spaces, a pool, covered pavilion and courtyards, the documents, filed Dec. 10 and amended Wednesday, indicate. One of the changes removed a 200-unit portion, reducing the total to 234.
The complex would be the first residential property in the Bull Street project, to which City Hall has committed tens of millions of dollars for roads, sewer and water lines, the stadium and other public services.
Efforts on Wednesday and Thursday to reach Haven officials to determine the number of beds and its projected construction timetable were unsuccessful. But the more than 600 spaces in the parking deck could be an indication of the number of residents expected.
The company also has filed its request to get a 50 percent property tax break for 10 years, making it the last of the student housing complexes likely to get the benefit before it expires at the end of the year.
“Once Dec. 31st hits, the tax break’s gone,” Ryan Coleman, Columbia’s economic development director, said. No other firms have applied for the reduction, which in the case of Haven will reduce its annual tax bill from an estimated $1 million to $500,000, Coleman said. The city would get about $95,000 yearly of the of half-million-dollar tax bill, he estimates. The majority of the rest of the revenue would go to the Richland 1 school district and, some, to Richland County.
Haven submitted its request for the break on Dec. 4, and City Council is likely to cast the first of two votes on whether to approve it at its Jan. 5 meeting, Coleman said. So far, council has not rejected any of the complexes that have requested the tax reduction that has fueled the recent student-housing boom downtown.
“This is kind of unique from the others,” Coleman said of the project’s design, “because they’ve got more acreage.” The size of the investment is to be $55 million or more, he said. Investments must reach at least $40 million to qualify for the tax break.
Richland County Council also must approve the project as well as the tax break.
Critics of the Bull Street project have complained that master developer Bob Hughes has been slow to announce high-profile or unique retailers and restaurants that will call BullStreet Common home. Some office and retail space is under construction, along with a minor league baseball stadium.
Haven has been in the student-housing business for about three years since it opened a 568-bed complex at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, according to the company’s website.
Haven has another university complex in Georgia, one in Mississippi and two in Texas, at Baylor and Texas Tech universities. Those facilities range in size from 536 beds at Mississippi State University to 840 beds at Baylor.
Images on the company’s website indicate the one for Bull Street will have a distinctive campus atmosphere with some side-by-side townhouse units that have gabled roofs and front porches. More typical apartment units will be four stories tall, according to the plans submitted to Columbia officials. But no building that would be within 100 feet of Calhoun Street can exceed two stories, according to city restrictions at BullStreet Common.
The design is akin to the ones Haven built in Mississippi State and the University of West Georgia.
A special Bull Street neighborhood panel, the Consolidated Review Committee, must approve the plan, said city land development administrator Johnathan Chambers. The proposal does not have to go through the city planning commission or Columbia’s design review board because the complex is covered by rules that govern only the 165-acre Bull Street property, he said.
If the CRC approves the project, Haven may proceed with land disturbance and building permits, Chambers said.