Homes and shops are coming to the massive development near downtown Columbia.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — As recently as 10 years ago, when someone mentioned Bull Street in Columbia, you probably thought of the state mental facilities that once stood on the property.
But that’s changed dramatically in the last eight years, thanks to the ongoing BullStreet Project. It’s brought a baseball stadium, new business, and living quarters to an area in downtown Columbia that many rarely thought about as they drove by it.
Jim and Joanne Ryan made the move from Hilton Head to the BullStreet (the development officially doesn’t break the term into two separate words, like the road it’s named for) district last July.
“There is–there will be– so much to do and it’s extremely convenient,” Joanne said. “This is like a little city coming here,” Jim added.
The active retirees were looking for more things to keep them busy.
“During Covid and all the lockdowns, we just felt maybe there was someplace else that could offer us a lot. We always thought we wanted to live downtown, so here we are,” Joanne said.
That’s exactly what developers had in mind when they started this project eight years ago. The 181-acre site is a combination of townhomes, apartments, commercial businesses, parks, and entertainment.
Originally this land was the state mental hospital campus that opened in 1828. Nearly 30 years later, the Babcock building became a part of the hospital system, perhaps the most iconic structure on the land. The historic building was completed in 1857, and survived numerous fires, the last one happening in 2018.
Graeme Moore is the exclusive listing agent for Townpark at BullStreet.
“People are starting to become attracted to BullStreet,” Moore said. “Early on it was a little bit of a tough sale, you were on an island out here. But as things have come along, we’ve seen a lot more interest, a lot of people wanting to move downtown to be in an urban setting, a walkable neighborhood and that’s something BullStreet offers and will offer more of.”
Along with 28 townhomes, more than 200 apartments will be located inside the former Babcock building. Construction is already underway and should be finished later this year.
Last year, a senior living facility, Merrill Gardens, opened. It has 196 units that offer independent and assisted living options. Down the road, even more housing options are likely. That’s because the BullStreet District has been zoned for more than 3,500 residential units.
On the commercial side, businesses such as Starbucks and REI are already open, with Publico restaurant on the way this spring. A law firm will open on the site in April.
“It’s a very large investment so we’re very engaged in the BullStreet project,” said Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “We all wanted more to come out of a lot sooner, but here we are in year eight and we’re seeing a lot of progress here.”
In 2016, Segra Park, formally known as Spirit Communications Park, was the first project to open on the site. It was built on land donated by the developer in an effort to get the BullStreet district up and running.
“The ballpark is open now, you can go in there an walk in it,’ said Rickenmann. “There’s lots of people who use it. The Rotary Club meets there. They’re are others renting spaces.”
Mayor Rickenmann says there’s more to come, including a proposed University of South Carolina health sciences building which would include a new medical school and research center. And a food hall is expected to open next year in the historic Chapel of Hope building. With so much progress, the mayor says he can’t see the Capital City without the BullStreet District.
“I don’t know that you could now,” Rickenmann said. “We now have a park in there, baseball that’s operating. We’ve got firms moving in there, apartments along with townhomes. A church which we attend. there’s life in every part. so I think it’s become part of our fabric.”
And that’s certainly the case for Jim and Joanne, who have big plans to enjoy their retirement in the BullStreet district.
“We just think wow, this is really neat. hardly any traffic and this is wonderful,” said Jim. “We’re very active.”
“We’re very happy here,’ Joanne added.
In case you’re wondering the project is scheduled to be completed before the end of the decade. When all is said and done, $1.2 billion will be invested in the BullStreet district.