Thank you and the others who recognize that today we have problems in Five Points. I want to especially recognize the merchants, property owners, neighborhood leaders and city staff who have worked together for months to create a ten-point plan that creates opportunities to re-energize Columbia’s most iconic entertainment and shopping district, Five Points.
Please let me clarify certain information in your recent story. First the city purchased 2221 Devine Street, which has not been on the tax rolls for decades, in order to add up to over 150 public parking places and 150 plus parking for the potential development to the 5 Points area at a cost of approximately $10,000 per space versus the $25,000+ per space the city spent on its last parking garage.
The intention from day one, was to put the office building in the hands of the private sector, have it put back on the tax rolls and preferably become a boutique hotel. A nice hotel is needed in Five Points to add another type of customer base to the area. It will spur more daytime pedestrian traffic, hopefully drive a resurgence of nicer restaurants and retail in the area and last perhaps change the way we police Five Points today.
I insisted that the city use an independent third party to put out the RFP to repurpose the building into a hotel, to review the responses and to make a recommendation to city council of who would be the best entity to redevelop the property. The third-party review was designed to take the politics out of it and based on your story today it looks like certain folks may be trying to put the politics back in it. We all know that it is important for the city select a developer who can deliver a great project on time and with the least amount of disruption. Recently we have seen other hotels take years to complete, and we do not want to see that in Five Points. Again, there must be public trust on this project.
It has to be above board and clear of all inside baseball (no pun intended), and most importantly the city has to have a developer who plays by the rules. Bottom line is I believe the City and Five Points, for a change needs to provide the opportunity and not be the capital source for a developer. The City contracted with an independent third party to create, manage and facilitate an RFP process that was marketed all over the southeast to invite Hotel developers to bid on the building with public spaces being a partially available for the project parking. There is no asking price of $9.3 million, the bids are based on quality of the project first and price second.
I am glad to see that you have seen the “Five Points renewal plan,” if you take a close look you see it deals with removing “deal killers” or “disincentives” rather than trying to buy new projects. For our city to be successful and grow, we have to become more investment friendly, make it faster to get permits and help businesses, big and small, open with less upfront bureaucratic cost. All of us at the city need to understand for a business … time is money. The ten-point Five Points renewal plan is shown below so that you and your readers can see it for themselves.
(The author is a Columbia, S.C. businessman who represents the city’s fourth district on city council).
WEB EXTRA: FIVE POINTS’ RENEWAL PLANFive-Points
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