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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
USC, Guignards unveiling plan to reinvent downtown

By JAMES T. HAMMOND and C. GRANT JACKSON
[email protected] [email protected]

Condos, retail would ring park, campus

USC today will unveil a sweeping plan for its research campus and 500 acres of the city center that includes a major new riverfront park and 3,000 new households that school planners hope will attract researchers and students seeking an urban lifestyle.

The densely built, walkable downtown will have as its crown jewel a riverfront park — the largest in the city — with two footpaths, a marsh with boardwalks, a grassy amphitheater and, near the Congaree River, the reflooded southern tip of the Columbia Canal.

USC’s partners in the venture are members of Columbia’s Guignard family, which owns more than 100 acres of undeveloped riverfront land between Gervais and Catawba streets.

Condominiums, town houses and retail storefronts would ring the Innovista research campus just west of Assembly Street, as well as the park, between Huger Street and the river.

The research campus would connect with the riverfront property through a new university main street: a tree-lined Greene Street stretching from USC’s Horseshoe to the river and featuring a new public sculpture garden.

The plan is “a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform a midtier city into a world-class destination,” said USC trustee William Hubbard. “It’s ambitious, but we can do it if we all pull together.”

The estimated cost to fully develop the new roads and other infrastructure is $105.6 million, including $63.4 million for the waterfront park alone.

No funding source has been lined up yet, but the possibilities include federal and state grants, private gifts and local taxpayer support. Sasaki Associates Inc. of Boston, which designed the plan, said for example that a 15-year extension of the special tax district in the Congaree Vista would produce an estimated $69 million.

Other than the infrastructure, the rest of the plan is heavily dependent on nearby landowners, as USC and the Guignards own only about one-third of the 500 acres involved. Much of the land, however, either is undeveloped or underutilized. The plan would have no force of law unless the city decided to incorporate all or part of its features into Columbia’s zoning laws.

Mayor Bob Coble described the plan as “transformational” for Columbia and USC.

“All the dreams we’ve had for Columbia and the university are coming together in this plan,” Coble said. “I believe Columbia’s moment has arrived for great things to happen.”

Regarding the financing of the $105 million plan, he said, “it is only doable with everyone — federal, state and local governments and private participants — pulling together. No one entity can make this happen.”

The project is expected in its first 15 years to create an economic impact of $875 million in private market revenue, 8,700 jobs and $17.7 million in annual property taxes.

USC hired Sasaki to propose the plan, and the Guignard family joined the process. City and waterfront landowners who have seen the plan, including Guignard family members, say it will transform the city in ways few had imagined until they saw the proposal.

Sasaki has guided the transformation of inner-city waterfronts in Charleston, Greenville and throughout the nation and has guided USC’s development for the past decade.

Steve Benjamin, a Columbia attorney who is on a community steering committee formed to promote the Sasaki plan, said he was so impressed with the vision that he believes the city and USC have no choice but to go forward with it.

Attorney Bill Boyd, who heads the steering committee, described the plan as “stunning.”

The central feature of the plan would transform a large portion of the 100 or so acres of wild, undeveloped riverfront between Gervais and Catawba into a world-class public park with condos, offices and retail shops on a high bluff along an extended Williams Street, overlooking the water-oriented park.

The new USC baseball stadium south of Blossom Street, conceived as an afterthought to a planning agreement between USC and the Guignards, has become a keystone to the entire concept. The outfield stands will face the river, and fans will enter the park from center field.

“For the first time, I’ve seen a collaboration I think will work,” Boyd said. “This can make Columbia different from many other cities.”

Charlie Thompson, spokesman for the Guignards, acknowledged that his family-owned company has left the city at the altar several times with plans for its riverfront land that never were realized.

But he said his family’s long-standing commitment to public space and river access have made them cautious about proceeding. “It’s important to do it right. We only get one chance,” he said.

Sasaki is no stranger to such transformative planning. The company worked with Georgia Tech and the city of Atlanta to design the Atlanta Olympic Village. And they are working with the University of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia to redevelop the riverfront there.

Richard Galehouse, Sasaki’s point man on the USC plan, described it as “a vision that goes beyond either of the parties” and said it would transform the area into “a modern laboratory of the forces at play in our cities.”

The plan reveals only a few details of how USC plans to develop land it already owns in the zone from east to west between the historic Horseshoe and the river and north to south from Gervais to Catawba.

USC already has announced plans for public-private development on at least three blocks on or near Assembly Street. In a large swath of USC-controlled property west of the Colonial Center, the plan only anticipates the possibility of a major bridge over the railroad tracks at Greene Street and an alumni center on Greene west of the tracks. Carolina The Coliseum, replaced as an arena by the Colonial Center, is being studied by Sasaki for possible future uses.

The planners said the proposal doesn’t require any additional property purchases by USC to implement the plan. It is, they said, a first-ever effort by USC and the Guignard family to work together as agents of change, to influence the future private development in the zone, and to create a new style of urban life in Columbia where people can live, work and play within the same several blocks.

Galehouse and others emphasized that the plan is just the first step in a lengthy process that will require raising millions of dollars of public and private money and acceptance by numerous parties as diverse as property owners, city government, federal transportation and flood control authorities, and USC trustees who, like many residents, will see the plan for the first time today.


KEY FEATURES OF THE PLAN
What USC and Columbia’s Guignard family are proposing:

• A large riverfront park on the Guignard property that would complete Columbia’s portion of the Three Rivers Greenway

• The park — the project’s “crown jewel” — would feature two footpaths, a marsh with boardwalks, a grassy amphitheater and, near the river, the reflooded southern tip of the Columbia Canal.

• The extension of the north-south Williams Street through the Guignard property along a natural bluff, one block west of Huger Street

• Condos with riverfront views on both sides of Williams Street’s bluff

• The extension of Greene Street across Huger, ending at the park

• The “greening” of Greene Street from the USC Horseshoe to the river, creating a pedestrian-friendly street with a public sculpture garden

• Three river landings, at Senate, Greene and Wheat streets, with expanded river access for canoes and kayaks

• Very urban, densely situated condo, apartment and retail buildings — mostly three and four stories high — ringing USC’s research campus, Williams Street and the greenway and stretching into nearby areas of the Vista; dependent on private developers

• Retail and office space sprinkled among the condos; dependent on private developers

• Burial of power lines on 18 acres of the Guignard property to make way for the park and condos
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Renderings

Alright, here are the renderings that were presented for Innovista, USC's downtown research campus. The first shot is the downtown near the banks of the Congaree River presently, then the renderings follow.




Looking towards the Colonial Center, home of the Carolina Gamecocks






Looking toward USC's proposed ballpark
 

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awesome. i remember when part of this area was a brownfield/old crappy industrial. this'll be great...now Columbia needs a new tallest and some more residential towers (it already has a few though.)

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LSyd said:
awesome. i remember when part of this area was a brownfield/old crappy industrial. this'll be great...now Columbia needs a new tallest and some more residential towers (it already has a few though.)

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Yes, a couple of 500 footers would be nice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
LSyd said:
now Columbia needs a new tallest and some more residential towers (it already has a few though.)

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Well, the city sure is getting its fair share of residential low-rises and mid-rises right now. Not much height, but the city is getting denser pretty quickly.

I believe the timeline for the entire project is 15-20 years.

Plans like these make me all the more grateful that Columbia and other SC cities didn't repeat the mistakes of other cities in constructing freeways through downtown. Had that happened, Columbia simply wouldn't have the land for this, as well as many other projects happening downtown.
 

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Wow, these renderings/drawings look great! Looks like a huge project that will really benefit Columbia and it's river. :)
 

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Unfortunately the article says, "No funding source has been lined up yet." From my experience that means the project is about 10-20 years away. Lots can happen/change in 10-20 years. Great idea, just don't expect it to happen any time soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yeah, the entire project is about 20 years away, but the first phase of the campus is already under construction as we speak. But here's an article that talks about how a public-private partnership is the only way to get this project off the ground. I think that's what makes this thing all the more likely to happen within a reasonable time frame. Also, most developers who already have projects in the works for downtown Columbia reacted positively to the plan, saying it would increase the momentum that has been building downtown for the past three years.
 

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pdxheel said:
Unfortunately the article says, "No funding source has been lined up yet." From my experience that means the project is about 10-20 years away. Lots can happen/change in 10-20 years. Great idea, just don't expect it to happen any time soon.
Actually, parts of the project are already under way: The new USC School of Public Health is nearly finished, the USC Innovista Horizon Block is under construction, The Greek Village is nearly complete and worl on the Adesso Condominium complex is about to begin. This plan is simply a guideline for the development of that section of Columbia.
 

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pdxheel said:
Unfortunately the article says, "No funding source has been lined up yet." From my experience that means the project is about 10-20 years away. Lots can happen/change in 10-20 years. Great idea, just don't expect it to happen any time soon.
phases...seem obvious to the plan here. if 1/2 of this can be finished according to vision, well, it's a tremendous asset to Columbia. and it seems very obvious that 1/3's very committed.

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