Revelers at Social. The Vista will soon see an influx of students.
Leaders of the Congaree Vista Guild last week touted some $400 million in investment coming to their district, even as they acknowledged that some of the changes ahead might not be smooth.
At a media breakfast on Feb. 19, Vista Guild Director Sarah Lewis pointed to public investment projects, residential developments, and incoming retailers and restaurants as signs of the continued health of the downtown district. At the same time, she acknowledged that rent in the district has become “extremely high” for some traditional tenants such as galleries, and she vowed that even as student housing moves in, “you’re not going to see dollar drinks in the Vista.”
Since the late 1980s, the Vista has evolved from a warehouse district into a restaurant- and gallery-rich area that prides itself as a haven for artists and creative business people, such as architects and web designers, as well as on its respect for the historic integrity of its buildings.
Larry Hembree, director of Trustus Theatre and board president of the Vista Guild, calls the area “vibrant and progressive,” adding that, “We are all passionate about being here.”
The investment pouring into the area is a sign of its continued vibrancy. But even as leaders welcome the incoming investment, they also prepare to grapple with its consequences.
“It’s going to change,” Hembree says. “It’s going to get handsome for some.”
In some cases, galleries might need to move — if only a few blocks. Clark Ellefson, one of the Vista’s pioneers, moved his Lewis + Clark gallery from the heart of the Vista on Lincoln Street to Huger Street, an area he told The State is “the new frontier” for keeping art and artists in the area.
Many of the public projects discussed at the Feb. 19 event are ongoing, and a few are on the outskirts of what the average city dweller would consider the Vista. They include ongoing completion of the Three Rivers Greenway; the $29 million expansion of the State Museum, which will add a long-awaited planetarium and observatory; the new $95 million Moore School of Business on Assembly Street; $8 million in Assembly Street streetscaping; and a planned Greene Street streetscaping and bridge project to be funded by the new Richland County transportation tax.
Among the residential developments are 200 new units at CanalSide near Huger Street and 180 units on Whaley Street in Olympia, both of which are already under construction. Forthcoming student housing projects include a $40 million, 700-bedroom Edwards Development project at the corner of Pulaski and Blossom streets, and a $96 million USC Holder Partnership project on Park Street. The city Design/Development Review board just approved USC’s plans last week; called the West Campus Development Project, it will include 878 bedrooms and two parking garages.
While all of these investments will affect the Vista, it is perhaps student housing and the evolving face of retail and restaurants in the area that could affect the district’s character the most. Urban Outfitters opened on Gervais Street last year, a sign that Columbia in general — and the Vista in particular — is becoming a more attractive destination for national retailers and restaurants.
“Restaurants pay a lot more in rent than a gallery,” Lewis says. But “our roots are with galleries and small businesses, and we recognize that.”
But among the retailers on the immediate horizon, most are local or regional. Entourage Clothing & Gifts, opening on Lady Street in March, is regional, with locations in Clemson and several Georgia cities. Carolina Couture, a bridal store, is local. Studio Cellar, a new drink-and-paint studio next to City Art on Lady Street, is local.
On the restaurant front, the Charleston-based vegan eatery Black Bean Co. is opening later this spring, Nonnah’s is relocating from the south to the north side of Gervais Street, and a couple of yet-to-be-named national restaurant chains will be coming to the area soon, too.
As all these changes come to the district, Hembree says the Guild is focused on three key things: ensuring the safety of the district; understanding and preparing for the changes students will bring; and attracting a broad base of retail.
Adds Lewis: “Responsible growth” is what the Guild stands for, and “keeping the character” is key.
Will that be possible with a couple thousand students added to the area and national retailers and restaurants further driving up property prices? That’s the challenge facing the Vista Guild.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently seeking a friendly & detail-oriented individual for an Administrative Assistant/Data Entry Clerk position on our Administrative Office team. Primary responsibilities include: Data entry, process incoming & outgoing mail, good communication skills required. Contact: email@example.com.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Real Estate Spotlight
The Lake Carolina new home community has it all! 1 YMCA, 3 pools, 10 parks, 20+ community events each year, and much more! Learn more. www.lakecarolina.com