The Babcock Building fire was a “gut-punch” to BullStreet developer Robert Hughes III, but he said authorities are “optimistic that the building will still be restored” and hopes construction will start in the near future.
Just more than a week after the Sept. 12 fire that destroyed much of the historic Babcock Building — including its iconic red dome — in the BullStreet project, Hughes spoke to the Columbia Rotary Club Monday about the development’s future. Hughes is president of Hughes Development Corp. based in Greenville.
“The most iconic element of the building was obviously destroyed, but if you look at this picture, clearly the fire was contained to the very center portion of the building which allows the building to still be rehab-ed, I believe, and still be a historic project and stay on the National Register,” Hughes III said.
In 2010, Hughes Development Corp. began the expected 20-year project of re-imagining 181 acres of the former S.C. State Hospital complex. The Babcock Building’s dome was featured in the logo for the massive development, and Hughes said there are no plans to change it.
The Babcock Building is one of the original structures on campus to be historically renovated, rather than torn down. It is owned by Clachan Properties of Virginia, which plans to develop it into a 200- apartment complex.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Hughes also provided updates on other aspects of the BullStreet development:
Starbucks on Bull Street
- Construction on the Starbucks by REI on Bull Street is set to be completed in October.
- Starbucks will move into the building and open by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.
- Hughes said the the plan is to create an architecturally interesting building. “We didn’t want it to look like your side of the interstate, exit 42 Starbucks.”
- This 20-acre park will be the second largest park in Columbia.
- The park is expected to open “sometime this fall.”
- The park will have a 1-acre dog park area, walking trails and a daylighted creek.
- The Smith Branch Creek will run 2,000 feet long and divert flood water to improve flooding conditions in BullStreet.
- This historic building will include a covered, public green space for events at the end of Pickens Street.
- Construction for this project will begin next year and be completed by 2022.
Iron Hill Brewery
- Plans for Iron Hill have been slowed due to COVID, Hughes said.
- The owners are building a new facility, but do not have a construction start date yet.
University of South Carolina Medical School
- Will be on 16 acres at the corner of Colonial Drive and Harden Street, across from Prisma Health.
- The school is in the demolition phase of development now.
The Laundry Building
- Renovations on this building will begin this year, but the use is not yet known, according to Hughes.
- The Laundry Building is the tenth and last original building to be saved and renovated by Columbia developers.
- The building has a small cupola dome on top of it, similar to the one that burned on the Babcock Building.
Hughes said developers are trying to save any original trees on the campus, as well as plant new ones to create a “dense urban” area.
The entire BullStreet development is expected to bring at least $20 million in new tax revenue for schools and local government and has already brought around 500 jobs to the campus.