April 16, 2015

Preservationists celebrate redevelopment of Palmetto Compress Warehouse

Thursday’s gathering outside the Palmetto Compress Warehouse was a day meant for celebration, a moment to relish in a sweet victory which saved a historic Columbia structure all while enhancing the city’s economic growth.

But it also provided a chance at a brief nod to the contrarians who doubted the project’s unlikely success.

“When we did step forward two years ago and voted to save this priceless piece of our city’s history,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said, “there were a lot of folks that said we’d no way we’d make our money back, thought we were dreaming or downright crazy. Well, big dreams are what change the world.”

Benjamin and other players in the building’s preservation came together on a cold and rainy day to mark the commencement of the facility’s rebirth into a new mixed-used apartment complex. The behemoth structure had initially been home to a cotton warehouse and the nearby Ward 1, the former home of many of the city’s black residents.

Developers anticipate the building, originally built in 1918 and 1923, to be open late next year. The 366,000-square-foot facility in the 600 block of Devine Street will include nearly 200 apartments. Thirty-five of those will be three-bedroom units, 103 will be two-bedroom and another 59 will be one-bedroom, plans show.

The property — purchased by Philadelphia-based developer Ron Caplan of PMC Property Group — will feature a five-story parking garage, surface parking lot, ground-level pool, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a multiuse greenway. Caplan’s team recently completed a 1 million-square-foot, three-building luxury apartment project called The Mills in the city’s historic mill district.

“Here I am again trying to help the people in Columbia salvage the history that others have looked at and said couldn’t be salvaged,” Caplan said. “We’re going to do our best, and I hope I make you proud. Because the people of the first ward, just like the people of the mill village, deserve this piece of history in their lives.”

The city bought the building in April 2013 for $5.65 million, as it had been destined to be razed to make way for a student dormitory. In October of that year, a development company headed by local businesswomen Rosie Craig and Amanda Sauls acquired the structure and its nearly 5-acre site for $5.9 million.

“I always knew the right developer was out there, but didn’t know early on the depth of my personal commitment to that belief,” Craig said. “I never gave up. Little did I realize when winning the bid that the perfect developer was just a few blocks away.”

Read more here at the Columbia Business Report.