September 9, 2014

City to Explore Development of Air Rights Over Downtown Garages

When it comes to the continued development of downtown, City of Columbia officials hope things will be looking up.


The city issued a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) on Sept. 9 to which developers and others can respond with ideas for vertical development above the six city-owned parking garages in the central business district and Vista areas of downtown.

The RFEI period will be open for three weeks, according to Mayor Steve Benjamin.

According to a summary of the RFEI, results of the recent Midlands Reality Check, which was conducted by the Urban Land Institute - South Carolina, suggest area leaders support the creation of a dense, urban, live-work environment in Columbia's central business district. As such, the city is seeking to identify concepts that might lead to vertical development at the aforementioned garage sites in the city center.

A secondary goal of the project would be to return currently nontaxable land to the city and county's tax rolls. The city's garages in the central business district represent large pieces of prominent property that, because they are owned by the local government, are not on the tax rolls. However, if the city were to permit the air rights over the parking garages to be privately developed, those developed spaces could be placed on the tax rolls.

The city's RFEI is presented to those interested in presenting concepts to develop such air rights into commercial (such as office, restaurant, etc.) or residential (non-student apartments) projects without tax incentives provided by the City or Richland County.

The city plans to review all responses to the RFEI with the following goals in mind:

* Creation of new economic development opportunities.

* Support and attract knowledge-based economy jobs, thereby assisting in the creation of intellectual capital in the region.

* Improve the quality of life for citizens of Columbia and the Midlands by providing downtown residences and/or relevant commercial opportunities.

* Provide ongoing financial return and economic value to the city.

The goal here is consistent with what we have been doing in trying to build a dynamic and vibrant downtown, Benjamin says.

The mayor says he thinks developing private enterprise be it residential or commercial over top of public parking garages is very doable. The mayor notes, if any such development were to come to pass, the projects would undergo rigorous engineering studies, simply because of the physical complexities of that type of project.

See more here.