Richland County Council voted to approve a $181 million downtown development plan nicknamed Project Vista Depot District during its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday night. The concept introduced by veteran real estate developer Ben Arnold features a four-star, 301-room hotel and a five-story, 183-apartment complex in the heart of Columbia’s Vista.
Construction on the 11.9-acre expansion is expected to begin in early 2024 and take about three years to complete. The design also includes a 422-space parking garage on which the multi-family development will sit, while planned improvements to Gadsden Street will open up an additional 263 surface parking spaces.
“Through his distinctive vision for downtown, Ben Arnold has made an impact that will shape the community for decades to come,” said Overture Walker, Richland County Council chair. “This new development points the way toward further revitalization in the Vista. Council looks forward to the benefits of that additional growth, both in terms of jobs downtown and more visitors to Richland County.”
In addition to the creation of 160 permanent jobs, consultants for the Arnold Cos. estimate an annual economic impact of more than $3.6 million for the County, including:
- Hospitality tax – $7,023,000 ($234,100 annual average over 30 years)
- Accommodations tax – $21,368,000 ($712,266 annual average over 30 years)
- Sales tax – $21,270,000 ($709,000 annual average over 30 years)
- Construction jobs – 1,862 (over a three-year period)
“We are very excited to bring this exceptional project to my hometown of Columbia,” said Ben Arnold, president and owner of the Arnold Cos. “The Arnold Companies has gone to great lengths to ensure that the hospitality and multi-family properties offer amenities unlike anything currently found in the central Midlands.
“Our goal is to not only have a great place for local residents to be entertained, work and live, but also to enhance the image of the Vista when people come to visit Columbia, whether for business or pleasure,” Arnold said.
As part of the planned development, the Arnold Cos. is committed to funding the following infrastructure upgrades in and around the development through private investment:
- Expanding Wayne Street from a one-way street to two-way, from Pendleton Street to the west entrance to the development, and building a new overlay
- Repaving Pendleton Street from Gadsden to Wayne streets and tying into the University of South Carolina’s (USC) road improvements along Gadsden Street adjacent to Colonial Life Arena
- Providing a pedestrian access and tying into a USC sidewalk, resulting in Gervais Street being connected to the Colonial Life Arena area and USC’s Greek Village
- Providing a pedestrian connection to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
- Installing new pavement on a portion of Gadsden Street adjacent to the depot building, improving public access and parking to the development
- Creating a state-of-the-art 422-space parking deck for use by visitors to the Vista
- Building 87 bicycle stalls throughout the property
- Installing an EV charging station inside the parking structure
- Installing underground electric and communication utility lines, as permitted and economically feasible
- Making sidewalk repairs and improvements at all adjoining public streets
- Planting landscaping along street frontages
- Providing street lighting
Richland County Council’s approval of the development plan comes after two earlier readings and a public hearing.