Bull Street Update: There’s baseball, and, um… there’s baseball…

Bull Street is coming along fine. It's got baseball...

Bull Street is coming along fine. It’s got baseball…

Having seen this story in The State today:

Most members of the Bull Street Commission, a seven-member board appointed by Columbia City Council, said Monday that they are satisfied with progress at the former State Hospital despite raised expectations of a sprawling retail complex that so far have not materialized.

“I still feel the project is coming along at a reasonable pace,” said member Rebecca Haynes, a former president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization. “I think it’s way too early in a 20-year project for anyone to start throwing stones.”…

… I was wondering what y’all thought about how the development is going.

All I’ve really seen so far is baseball, but then, I keep telling y’all to be patient on the Innovista concept, so do I have room to talk?

Anyway, if all you’ve got to show is baseball, is that so bad? It’s better than what they’ve got going at Williams-Brice, in my book…

... and also baseball.

… and also baseball.

35 thoughts on “Bull Street Update: There’s baseball, and, um… there’s baseball…

  1. Doug Ross

    Went to the stadium last Friday night and had good seats behind the plate. Saw Tim Tebow bang out three solid hits while I was wearing a “vintage” Tebow New England Patriots jersey. Stadium is excellent, full house that night (5800+). Food is reasonably priced for sporting events.

    I’m willing to give it time. Start surrounding the park with restaurants and higher end stores (Apple???) and figure out the parking and traffic patterns very early on.

  2. Mark Stewart

    It isn’t going to happen. The demographics do not support retail development at that site – or at any similar one in Columbia, frankly. It’s a semi-tragic situation; mostly for the voters Bob Coble has gaffed to pay for infrastructure that has no quantifiable IRR.

    1. Doug Ross

      Mark – I realize you are more knowledgeable about this topic than I am, so help us out here. You’re saying an Apple store in Columbiana Mall would not be viable? or somewhere in the Vista with access to all the students/weekend shoppers? Do you know what the target demographic levels are? Is it population density plus income level?

      Meanwhile, Blythewood is BOOMING all over. Killian Road to Clemson is going to become the next Two Notch area. The BOSE plant has been purchased by the makers of Lulemon (sp) clothing. Housing developments are springing up all over. My neighborhood has grown from 25 to 100 homes in two years with a new phase starting up that will add another 100.

        1. Doug Ross

          It’s inevitable with the Richland County government. All development is good. No forethought for infrastructure. Expand the tax base. That’s all they have thought about for the past 25 years I’ve lived in the county. I’m waiting for the next “It’s For The Children” school bond lies.

          Luckily, my neighborhood is pretty far removed from that area so I’ll be gone to the mountains before it reaches the choking point.

      1. Mark Stewart

        It’s everything. The Cola area is SOOO messed up for retailers. The metro area is too fractured demographically, that’s the root of it.

        No one area has the “right” combination of income, age, roof-top density, drive-times, and socio-economic homogeneity (I said it, I know, but it is a true fact of site selection). etc.

        Columbia doesn’t have a “right” side of town to it. Charleston has a somewhat but not as extreme a problem. Greenville more closely adheres to the demographic clustering that retailers crave. For a while Irmo was that sort of retailer’s dream, but that’s long since failed. Now it’s just the black hole nature of the Harbison Corridor that holds it together.

        If a given retailer’s model is that the Cola metro area could support one store, then those are the ones that won’t ever come. It just doesn’t pencil out. Apple is certainly on that list. I think there was some optimism that the Bull Street property could be that bow-tie location, but it seems site selectors have caught on that it was a Potemkin Village…

          1. Mark Stewart

            It is less redlining per se and more aggregated sorting. It’s less about race and much more about homogeneity – the largest possible pools of socio-economically similar people. People who have disposable incomes, that is …

      2. Mark Stewart

        It isn’t LuLumon that is going in the Bose building. It’s LuLuRoe. This is basically a knock-off pyramid scheme. Figures the Dept. of Commerce would back it. What did they do – give them the building for free and PILOT the taxes for scores of low-paying jobs?

        It’s almost tragically predictable what will happen in a few short years… or less.

          1. Richard

            Your right, it’s better the building sit empty. $11 bucks an hour for what would be described as unskilled or low-skilled labor. Do you think their Operations or IT staff will be working for $11/hr.? If it gets 500 people off welfare I’m for it.

            1. Doug Ross

              Jobs are jobs and help the economy. $11 is more than what McDonalds is paying. And if the jobs come with benefits, all the better.

              1. Claus2

                I agree, nothing stating that job starting at $11/hr.(or $22,000/yr.) means it’s where a worker will stay. Anyone with any kind of work ethic would likely stay at that job less than two years before moving up.

                Those people working fast food demanding $15/hr don’t realize that if they’ve been there 2-3 years they’re probably qualified to be a shift manager or even store manager which is probably in the $35,000 – $60,000 range.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I think the real challenge is the retail model itself. In the past month, the only retail establishment I’ve entered (save grocery stores and beer shops) has been a hardware store a couple of times. If it’s something I want rather than need, I can wait until it arrives in the mail. The Village at Sandhills has never been fully leased and there always seems to be another place closing its doors.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author


        I was conversing with a fella from Florence this afternoon. I told him I was born in Bennettsville, and we got on the subject of how small-town Main Streets have collapsed. Some worse than others. When I was a kid, downtown B’ville was all bustling, going concerns. Either vibrant chains such as Belk or Penney’s or thriving local drugstores, jewelry stores and the like. I can think of four “name” groceries within a mile of the courthouse — Winn-Dixie, Colonial (remember those, with the rooster logo?), A&P and Harris-Teeter. Two “dime stores” within a block, and a movie house. And the county hospital where I was born. All gone.

        There is, however, a Walmart out on the bypass.

        But as I told him, the retail environment is rough everywhere, including here, thanks to Amazon and such. If it weren’t, I’d probably still be working at the newspaper.

        But my shopping patterns are the same as Norm’s. I go to the grocery, sometimes Walmart, now and then Green’s, and Lowe’s — because when you need a certain tool in the middle of a chore on Saturday, you can’t wait two days for Amazon Prime…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Now we need a brewery, and we’re set.

      How come all the local breweries are within a few hundred yards of where I used to work? And why did they wait until I was gone?

      1. Norm Ivey

        I believe a brewery would do well on Bull Street. There’s one opening in Cottontown, which will be close. I think the target date is September.

        I’ve visited breweries in lots of places. They tend to cluster in industrial parks or in out-of-the-way locations like they have here. I suspect it’s because such places have the types of buildings they need (decent square footage and ceiling height) with room to grow at low rental rates.

        You should visit the Sierra Nevada brewery in Mills River near Asheville. It’s nicknamed Malt Disney World. It’s the happiest place on earth.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          They seem to me to be doing pretty well. They keep popping up, and I’m not seeing them go out of business.

          But I have a complaint. Something crystallized for me last night. I was at an event at which several microbreweries were sharing their wares. And I was thinking a thought that had not fully formed for me before…

          … AND I just decided to turn this into a separate post

          1. Doug Ross

            And, as with many things, the government has its hands wrapped firmly around the throats of the microbreweries with all sorts of ridiculous laws that limit production and distribution and efficiency. Those laws are either in place to protect the large distributors or to enforce the morality of teetotalers who aren’t happy if people enjoy themselves. They think they should decide who can sell it, what time of day it can be purchased, whether it can be sold along with food or not, how many barrels can be produced, whether a store can sell beer and wine in the same location as hard liquor. It’s insanity. The Costco over in the Harbison area has a little “garage” right next to the main doors and that is where vodka, whiskey, etc. must be purchased while beer and wine are sold inside the main store. Can you think of anything more stupid than that? What possible logical explanation could be given to justify it?

            Tax it like any other product and stay out of it.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yep, there’s a crazy quilt of alcohol laws out there (especially in Pennsylvania). And you know why? Because federalism. Because state’s rights. Because community standards. Because subsidiarity!

              And that’s a GOOD thing. I’d hate to see the feds dictate liquor laws.

              Here’s one of those areas where Doug and I could not disagree more.

              I like a drink as much as the next guy, but I have to acknowledge that alcohol can pose a public danger, on many levels. On the starkest, it’s a threat in the age of the automobile in the same way going 80 mph through a stop sign is. In fact, if you have someone going 80 mph through a stop sign, alcohol is almost certainly involved.

              And would you assert that we should not outlaw going 80 mph through a stop sign? It’s hard to imagine something more basic, it’s the essence of what a rational system of government should be doing.

              Ditto with trying to hem in the ill effects that alcohol can have on society, which certainly go far beyond the dangers of drinking and driving.

              Do a lot of the laws fail to make consistent sense? You betcha. As I keep saying, that’s what you get in a society in which everybody has a say. A philosopher king with absolute power could no doubt give us intellectually respectable regulations. A republic is going to give you laws that are the result of pushing and pulling by a wide variety of viewpoints, from prohibitionists to folks who want NO regulation, and a thousand varieties in between.

              And in a federalist republic, the rules are going to vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, because the compromises that result are going to land in different places.

              Doug and others think this is proof positive that government is a bad thing. But it isn’t. This is just what you get in a government of, by and for the people…

              1. Doug Ross

                “And that’s a GOOD thing. I’d hate to see the feds dictate liquor laws.”

                I would too. I hate to see any government entity overstep its reach in deciding what is “right” for its citizens.

                As you said, there are laws against drunk driving. Simply increase the penalties for breaking those laws until you achieve the desired effect . And maybe don’t allow legislators who make those laws to serve as defense attorneys in cases (especially those of OTHER legislators who get pebbles stuck in their shoes).

                It’s silly that you can justify stupidity because it came about as a result of compromise between teetotalers, nanny staters, and big alcohol producers and distributors. It’s not like it happens all at once. It’s tweaks here and there that many legislators probably don’t even think about the consequences or care. Seriously, when someone went before the legislature with a law that said beer/wine can’t be sold in the same store as vodka/whiskey, what kind of deep thought would go into deciding that makes any sense?

                This doesn’t happen because of the collected wisdom of of best and brightest. It happens because of ignorance and a desire to control other people. Plus a few kickbacks from the beer distributors to the right people.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Also, the burden of proof of necessity on these types of laws should be set high. Is there any definitive evidence that separating beer/wine from hard liquor has achieved ANYTHING? Can we compare statistics with states like California where you can buy vodka in the grocery store?

                  As with most things, it comes down to money or control. Entities that can profit from these laws will invest more money in seeing them enacted. Big beats small all the time because of this.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “Seriously, when someone went before the legislature with a law that said beer/wine can’t be sold in the same store as vodka/whiskey, what kind of deep thought would go into deciding that makes any sense?”

                  I suspect, but do not KNOW, that those different kinds of alcohol got split up because the beer and wine people had different lobbyists from the hard liquor people, and one group of lobbyists was more successful than the other.

                  Sometimes, though, it’s popular politics. For instance, I believe beer got a lot of negative attention back around 100 years ago because pretty much all the brewers in this country were German, and WWI caused such a backlash against them.

                  I’ve been reading a watching a lot of stuff connected to the centennial lately, and it’s fascinating what a huge influence German immigrants had in this country until 1917, when all of a sudden ANYTHING connected to Germany had to hide in the shadows to escape the wave of negative feeling…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    About the lobbyist thing… I once had a great story about hypocrisy in advocating for liquor laws, but all these years later the details escape me.

                    The broad outline… There was this guy in Tennessee who was such a successful lobbyist that he was known far and wide as The Golden Goose, or just The Goose.

                    I believe he represented liquor wholesalers. In Tennessee, you have to buy wine in liquor stores; groceries can stock beer, but not wine.

                    Anyway, I have this vague memory of him testifying once before a committee about the terrible perils of wine and how it would ruin society if the state allowed it to be sold in grocery stores. You’d have thought he was an anti-alcohol crusader. When the point was that it would hurt his clients’ business if they had to compete with groceries.

                    But it’s been so many years — more than 30, maybe closer to 40 — that I can’t remember details. It might not even have been the Goose, but that’s the way I remember it…

                    Anyway, the Goose was apparently still active as recently as 2014

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I saw that! I’ve had their ‘cue a couple of times from the truck, and it was wonderful. I hope they succeed with the brick-and-mortar venture.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I had some once and did NOT like it. But maybe I asked for the wrong variety.

        Of course, I tend to find any ‘cue other than Memphis Style somewhat disappointing. Give me Corky’s!

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I was just thinking that line about a minute ago.

            I love it when he says, “It was (something negative, like plain or monotonous or whatever), but it was what they were used to, and they liked what they were used to.”

            I was thinking about it because I was thinking about the monotony of most of our lives, which is why I can’t imagine writing about my own life, because who would be interested? Then I got to thinking how extraordinarily exciting Jack’s fictional life is, and how no real person’s experience could compare with it… but then I remembered how unremarkable and unexciting much of shipboard life was, between the adventures.

            And that led me to think how in O’Brian, even monotony is poetry. The reader heaves a sigh of pleasure when, after some upset on land and sea, O’Brian describes in detail the return to everyday routine. It’s soothing.

            It was what they were used to, and they liked what they were used to…

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