DOWNTOWN CHURCH, a Presbyterian congregation based in downtown Columbia, S.C., has announced that it will relocate to the BullStreet neighborhood. The church plans to move from its current home at 701 Whaley to the former Central Energy Facility at BullStreet in the next year.
DOWNTOWN CHURCH was founded in 2012; since then, the church has outgrown the space it now occupies. When asked why the church is special, co-pastors Dawn Hyde and Amos Disasa have a unified answer. “It’s not special. It’s just a church that you must experience in person to understand.”
BullStreet’s master developer, Hughes Development Corporation, is donating the 12,731 square-foot Central Energy Facility building to DOWNTOWN CHURCH, which will invest roughly $2 million for the renovation.
The church does not intend for the new building to be a typical church structure; it will maintain the industrial look original to the building and feature a stage situated in front of a roll-up garage door to support indoor and outdoor events.
“We want the space to be like a public park – a place where the community can gather,” says Hyde. “This is not a monument to DOWNTOWN CHURCH or an added benefit to the members. It will be functional.”
The church is known for demonstrating its interest in being a community partner, hosting events at The Nickelodeon, at the Columbia Museum of Art, and with local musicians for an annual Christmas bluegrass show. The church also developed a bike recycling program in which donated bicycles are repaired and then given to children at St. Lawrence Place and to adults at Transitions. When it needed a new space, the church found it natural to look for a partner in the endeavor. Disasa had the first conversation with Hughes Development Corporation four years ago.
“We are interested in the success of the BullStreet neighborhood, and we are excited about the move,” says Disasa. “Hughes has been supportive of our mission from the beginning, and I think we’ve all been energized by the creative process that would result in a new use of an energy building.”
The Central Energy Facility building played a crucial role during the decades when it was in use. In addition to underground piping, more than a mile of elevated trellis carried steam and cold water pipes from the Central Energy Facility to buildings across the 181-acre S.C. State Hospital site, providing heating and cooling to the entire campus until it was decommissioned by the S.C. Department of Mental Health in 2005. A significant task within the BullStreet project is a massive installation of modern, underground power, water, sewer and telecommunications lines, none of which existed on the site until construction began in 2014 in advance of the first Columbia Fireflies baseball game in April 2016.
“DOWNTOWN CHURCH fits the vision of BullStreet in every way,” says Robert Hughes, president of Hughes Development Corporation and project manager for BullStreet. “This congregation is so much more than a group that meets on Sundays; they are connected to the Midlands community in many creative, meaningful ways.”
As master developer at BullStreet, Hughes Development Corporation was obligated to save five of the S.C. State Hospital campus’ original buildings, but with the Central Energy Facility renovation, the count on the number of buildings that will be saved has grown to nine.
“Every thriving lifestyle or business district houses at least one congregation. Churches are gathering spaces that provide support to the community, and they make us all stronger,” adds Hughes. “DOWNTOWN CHURCH represents a true cross-section of all of Columbia, and we are very excited to partner with them. Every great neighborhood has a great church.”
While the church is excited about moving, the congregation also acknowledges how vital 701 Whaley has been to their story.
“We’re grateful to Richard Burts, owner of 701 Whaley, as well as Tom Chinn and the staff there,” notes Disasa. “Richard has been such a faithful partner to us, and that venue has helped to shape our identity.”
About DOWNTOWN CHURCH
To learn more about DOWNTOWN CHURCH see the church’s website, www.downtownchurch.me, or better yet, visit in person.
About the BullStreet District
Located within blocks of Columbia, S.C.’s vibrant downtown neighborhoods, the BullStreet district is a 181-acre, mixed-use redevelopment of the former South Carolina State Hospital campus, set for completion on a 20-year timeline with an anticipated $1.2 billion annual economic impact. For more information, visit http://www.bullstreetsc.com.