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Clayco president details plans for Assembly Street residential tower

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Clayco Realty proposes to build a 14-story apartment building on Assembly Street next to the Richland County Library, lower left, and just a block from Main. (Image/Provided)


By Chris Cox
Published Nov. 10, 2015

Columbia just made sense for Clayco Realty Group’s next big plan.

The Chicago-based developer expects to soon go before the city’s Design/Development Review Commission in search of approval for a 14-story, multi-family residential tower at the corner of Assembly and Washington streets. Though originally slated to meet Thursday afternoon, the company will likely push that back in order to address design concerns from the city staff.

But any delay likely won’t hamper the company’s interest in the Midlands.

“There’s a lot of things about Columbia and South Carolina just generally,” president Chris McKee said. “We look at sites all over for different components of our business. We identified Columbia mostly because of the growth the university had been on and, frankly, the city had been on in general.

“We like going to places where there’s a good growth trajectory and to be in places where there is increased population, and you have all the different cool things happening in the middle of the city.”

The site at 1401-1413 Assembly St. is the former location of the now-closed Angeline’s Beauty & Wig Salon. Before 1950 the building was part of “Black Downtown,” an area where African-American-owned professional offices and businesses were located, according to Historic Columbia.

edge building 11-9
Plans call for a two-story building at the corner of Assembly and College to be razed. (Photo/Chris Cox)
The tower – dubbed “The Edge” – will likely represent a $65 million to $70 million investment at the corner situated next to the Richland County Public Library main branch. The group is expecting a mix of upper-class and young professional residents with some students.

McKee said the company had not made a final determination as to whether it would pursue the 50% tax abatement for student housing developments, a credit which sunsets at the end of the year.

“It’s not right next to Five Points, for example,” he said. “It’s closer to the capital, closer to the business district of the city. It’s in an area that we think would lend itself to a little older and young professional population. And we intentionally did that. We like the location specifically because of that.”

Clayco Realty Group, which is also currently construction a warehouse manufacturing facility in North Charleston, does not have a timetable on beginning construction, assuming its DDRC approval. It is looking to begin sometime in 2016.

The company was ready to go before the commission in October before floods threw off that plan. Now the developer will take extra time to address staff concerns.

Its contemporary design may be a hard sell, recommendations noted, due to the massiveness of the building with minimal detailing on the upper facades. That “will likely face some stern criticism,” the staff wrote.

The committee also noted that the jumbled pattern of windows on the upper façade might have been an attempt to distract from the structure’s lack of detail, a similar approach seen on a recent proposal that was not well-received, the staff said.

“Whether it’s early enough in ’16 or not is really kind of immaterial,” he said. “Our schedule is really a little more fluid. We would be OK even if it took a little bit longer. We’re wanting to make sure we analyze the market properly, that we’re building the right building, that we’re going through the steps in the process.

“We’re not trying to jam anything home and we’re also extremely sensitive to Columbia’s continued recovery from the multiple storms that have hit it over the last few months.”

Clayco officials realized that most new developments entering the market were low- to mid-rise projects, giving them a potential leg up on something not seen here recently.

“We like the idea of using good, urban planning tools and increasing density and taking advantage of location, public transportation and all the other things that would allow you to build a denser project,” McKee said. “That excited us. There appeared to be an opening in the Columbia market for a project like that.”

Reach Chris Cox at 803-726-7545 or on Twitter @chrisbcox.

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