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Columbia, SC's Main Street becoming an 18-hour district

Redevelopment is bringing new life to Columbia, SC's Main Street and turning it into an 18-hour district, attracting new hotels, restaurants and retailers.  According to Colliers International's 2016 Q4 Research and Retail Focus Report, a resurgence in the downtown area as a place to live, work and play is creating a vibrant, eclectic Main Street.


Higher residential density, new anchors and the expansion of entertainment and cultural venues are all drivers increasing interest in urban retail to serve the area. In turn, this has inspired a wave of redevelopment of the retail corridor.

Downtown Columbia has seen a recent boom in population driven by multifamily development for University of South Carolina students and young professionals. Millennials and young professionals are moving from the suburbs to the urban core, where they can live, work and play near their home. 862 market rate apartment units and 3,522 student beds have delivered since August 2015.


This wave of multifamily and student housing translated to more than 5,000 new residents in Columbia’s downtown area. Additional housing is proposed that would add another 4,500 residents to the region’s core.


Main Street is the center of the region, hosting cultural events and seasonal festivals. The Soda City Market, so named because Columbia is often abbreviated as "Cola." on postage, is held on Main Street along a three-block stretch every Saturday. More than 100 local vendors line the street selling produce, bakery items, jewelry, clothing and other handmade products to an estimated 2,000 visitors. The market has been so successful that it will be expanding.


The Columbia Museum of Art opened in 1998 on Main Street and has since expanded its reach within the community by hosting classes, tours, lectures and events. In the winter, the City of Columbia hosts an ice skating rink on the outdoor courtyard of the Museum of Art. The Nickelodeon Theater, which moved to its Main Street location in 2012, is a cultural anchor to the growing Main Street district, attracting more than 64,000 attendees in 2016, the seventh consecutive year for attendance growth.

Main Street is also home to other anchors including, the renovated 67-room Sheraton Hotel, a 300-room Marriott Hotel, the Hub, a redeveloped office building that is now an 800-bed student housing development and Capitol Places, a 196-unit apartment complex in five redeveloped buildings on Main Street.


Major employers like Agape, a health care company employing 100 people and the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank’s headquarters employing 390 people have moved to Main Street recently, joining other businesses in the Central Business District. Collectively, these anchors have spurred a wave of retailers redeveloping underutilized spaces on Main Street. The most significant of these was Mast General Store in 2011, which now occupies the corner of Main Street and Taylor Street.

In the last year, new restaurants such as Lula Drake, Public House and East Bay Deli have opened on Main Street. A new bowling alley and restaurant concept will occupy the former Army Navy store. The former Hennessey’s restaurant building is currently being redeveloped. The Arcade Mall, Columbia’s first indoor mall, is undergoing renovations to update the common area and shop spaces. Pita Pit has committed to open its doors on the Arcade Mall’s Main Street side, and existing tenants are reshuffling to new spaces within the building.


Most recently, a breakfast concept from North Carolina, Famous Toastery, announced a location on Main Street adjacent to Cantina 76. Cyberwoven, a technology firm, will also be moving to a building on Main Street and Hotel Trundle, a 41-room boutique hotel, is planned for two buildings on Taylor Street.

Collectively, the renewed interest in urban retail is turning Columbia’s Main Street into an 18-hour district and a destination for residents and visitors. As a result, new local, regional and national retailers will continue to infill the remaining vacant spaces throughout the coming year.

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