Press and Media

Bull Street Plans Call for 414,000 Square Feet of Retail Space

Originally published Jan. 5, 2016 at:


street view bullstreet

Plans for downtown Columbia’s Commons at BullStreet project include 414,000 square feet of retail space for shops and restaurants, plus apartments, a hotel and offices.

The urban mixed-use community, which is rising from the former state mental hospital grounds, is well underway 18 months after the City Council agreed to partner in the construction of a $37 million baseball stadium that will be home to the Columbia Fireflies minor league team.

“We should have plans in for approval for a lot of it by the middle of 2016,” Bob Hughes, master developer, said during a meeting with the Columbia Regional Business Report to update the project. “The majority of it should be in for permitting before next year.”

A year and a half into a projected 20-year buildout, Hughes reported that 54% of the land – 89 of 165 acres – “is either under development or under contract.”

Projects under way include:

  • 8,000-seat Spirit Communications Park, which is expected to be ready for the Fireflies’ home opener April 14;
  • The 4,700-square-foot former bakery building, which will be home to the SOCO co-working space;
  • Construction of a 20-acre public park;
  • Conversion of the Ensor Building, a two-story brick building next to the stadium that once housed research labs and a morgue, into office and restaurant space;
  • Construction of the 85,000-square-foot First Base Building. The law firm Ogletree Deakins announced in August that it had signed a 10-year lease for 12,000 square feet of space in the building, which is being built adjacent to the stadium.
  • Renovation of the Parker Annex, which was bought by an unidentified third party who plans to occupy the second floor and lease the ground floor.

Also, plans have been submitted for a student housing complex between Gregg and Barnwell streets at Calhoun Street by Atlanta developer Haven Campus Communities.

“All of this is occurring right in the middle of the project,” Hughes said of the construction projects. “All that you can see from the road is the Parker Annex being built and a couple of roads going in.”

Hughes’s retail recruiter, Mike Cohn, regional president and co-founder of Lennar Commercial, said 85 storefronts are being planned to house a range of businesses from restaurants to shops. Plans also call for 275 to 300 market-rate family apartment units, a 150-room boutique hotel, and 50,000 square feet of office space – all to be built above the retail storefronts.

Names of potential retail tenants were not released.

“Some retailers are new to the market and new to the state,” said Jackson Hughes, president of Greenville-based Hughes Commercial Properties, who brought Cohn’s firm into the project.

Jackson Hughes added that once word got out about the kind of project that’s being undertaken on Bull Street “we were pretty overwhelmed. People were interested in Columbia.”

Retailers liked the fact that the project is near Interstates 26 and 77 and that a daily average of about 37,000 vehicles navigate the intersection of Elmwood Avenue and Bull Street, making it one of the busiest corners in Columbia.

The project “touches all facets that retailers want today. It’s authentic,” Cohn said.

That’s because it’s a project with a mix of older buildings that are being converted to new structures, Cohn said. Additionally, it’s an area where people can find something to do from 7 a.m. to midnight, and it’s a destination for people who can come in from other areas and find something to do whether it’s attending a baseball game, going to a movie or dining at a restaurant.

“It’s a live, work, play community that functions as a standalone, comprehensive mixed-use development,” Cohn said. “But more importantly we view it as a growing part of this much greater place.”

Overall BullStreet Project by the Numbers

  • 7.5% of the 20 year timeline has elapsed (1.5 years since start)
  • 125,000+ square feet of office/retail space under construction right now
  • 8 historic buildings to be saved (only 5 required originally; 60% increase)
  • 54% of all the land is under development, sold, or under contract (89 acres)
  • 1 million bits per second internet speed (1st urban gigabit community in South Carolina)
  • 20-plus acres of public park currently under construction

Lennar Commercial’s Proposed Commons at BullStreet

  • 414,000 square feet of retail space
  • 275 market rate apartment units 3-4 stories above the retail
  • 50,000-75,000 square feet of creative office space over retail
  • 150 room, 5-story boutique hotel
  • 85 total storefronts on current plan
  • 15 or more cafes/restaurants
  • 3 parking garages
  • 3 pocket parks
  • 2 historic buildings incorporated