How many ‘unblessed’ square inches are still left?

The view from my dorm room, taken in 2006, just before they tore the Honeycombs down. This, kids, is from the days when dorm rooms were a bit like prison cells, and were located on the actual campus.

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times before, but…

Often when I pass by the defunct K-Mart on Knox Abbott (it’s between my house and my older son’s), I think of the expedition I undertook to that location during my one semester as a student at USC, the fall of 1971.

My uncle in Bennettsville, which I visited most weekends, had asked me to get some vacuum cleaner bags for his machine, and the only place where he knew he could get them was at that store. (No, kids, there was no Amazon for such things.) That being a bit far from my dorm, the also defunct Snowden, I had to find a ride. So I asked my older roommate, who knew everyone on our floor (I was a freshman, he a junior), and he referred me to a guy who, as I recall, was the only one on the floor who had a car. How I persuaded this stranger to take me there I don’t recall, but that’s how I got the bags.

Of course, today every freshman at the University drives one (and possibly more than one) SUV that is no more than a year old. As a result, any trip across Columbia requires some strategy in order to avoid the hordes of erratically driven SUVs.

Frequently, I ponder whether the city would seem to be completely choked with kids between the ages of 18 and 22 if it were not for the traffic jams. Maybe not. Maybe walking down Main Street would just feel like being in the film “Logan’s Run,” in which everyone seems to be walking around in a mall and all humans are put to death at the age of 30. But I don’t know for sure.

I just know the high rises keep rising, with no end in sight. I’m all for having a thriving university, and I know that since the Legislature no longer supports “public” universities the way it did back when we didn’t have cars, a growing enrollment is pretty much essential. So it’s complicated.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking when I replied to this tweet from Mike Fitts:

That said, I thought I’d check and see if y’all had any thoughts on this…

14 thoughts on “How many ‘unblessed’ square inches are still left?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I had to do some hunting to find that picture from inside the doomed Honeycombs in 2006.

    It’s from the day my roommate John and I went there and spent a couple of hours sitting in our room and listening to the Beatles. I took a lot of pictures, and some video. But I didn’t get around to posting it on the blog right away, and then time passed and the material just got to be more and more dated….

    (Why the Beatles, when they had broken up two years before? Because before that time, John had not been much of a fan. But I had brought the stereo my Dad had brought me from Japan for my high school graduation, and a lot of albums, including most of the Beatles’. The stereo and the records, which I had brought on the plane from Honolulu, probably weighed more than the rest of my stuff altogether. Priorities. Anyway, I played them all the time and John really, really got into the Fab Four in a big way — and associated them with that time.)

    I still might post it sometime, as a historical document…

    Here’s a shot I took in the 4th-floor bathroom that day. It was only slightly less decorative than when we lived there 35 years earlier. Yes, kids, THE bathroom for the entire 4th floor — and it was on the opposite side of the building from us…

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, technically. I was trying to think of what the road was called at that point. I think of it as the place where Knox Abbott (or what is Knox Abbott right around the bend) comes together with Charleston Highway and three other roads — Williams Street, Middleton Street and Airport Boulevard.

      Looking at the map, I suppose it ceases to be Knox Abbott before you get to that bend. But I don’t think of it as Charleston Highway until that five-points thing…

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Maybe I should have said, “the defunct K Mart out Knox Abbott…”

        Of course, calling it “K Mart” (or “Kmart”) was also problematic.

        Used to be, we had Kmart and Big K. Toward the end, this place was called “BIG Kmart.”

        Which is confusing. You’d think maybe the two had merged, but they hadn’t. Big K merged with Walmart long before Kmarts started being called Big Kmarts.

        I tried looking it up and figuring it out just now, but it was amazingly boring, so I just gave up…

        Reply
        1. Leon

          Didn”t K-Mart buy Sears or vice versa years ago? Talk about a deal struck in Hades!

          I saw on TV the other day that there are 3 K-Marts left in the USA and probably in the world and one of them is getting ready to close.

          Reply
  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I was surprised y’all didn’t get interested in this topic.

    Seems to me that the explosion of student housing — and number of students, and cars — is one of the most notable things that’s been happening in Columbia over the last decade or two.

    And nobody had anything to say about it?

    One of the things that has surprised me most since I started blogging 17 years ago has been how hard it is to generate discussion about local — by which I meant metro-area — issues. We can get a good argument going about almost anything else, but local ones are tough.

    There have been exceptions, but usually metro stuff pretty much falls flat…

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Admittedly, maybe I don’t approach these issues properly.

      Most of my career, I concentrated on state issues, and probably dealt with national and international more than I did the local stuff.

      But I’ve always considered such issues hugely important. And I’ve always worried about not paying enough attention to them. I worry about it now, and I worried even more as a newspaper editor. On the editorial page, one of my biggest worries was that I didn’t think we told people enough about local issues.

      The reason, to a great extent, had to do with limited resources and the extreme fragmentation of local government in South Carollina. Contrast the Columbia situation to my last newspaper before The State: Wichita was superficially a lot like Columbia — a city of about the same size, built at the confluence of two rivers. We even had a similar cultural conflict between the East and West sides.

      Beyond that, nothing was the same. We had one city, one county, and (if I remember correctly) one public school district.

      In the economic community of Columbia, you have more than 10 municipalities, two counties, seven school districts, and a host of other little local entities, thanks to SC’s crazy system of Special Purpose Districts (such as the Richland County recreation and election districts). It’s very hard to cover all that and hold all those different public bodies accountable.

      Just take election candidate endorsement interviews, looking at it from the perspective of an editorial page editor. Each time there was a primary or a general election, we’d have 50 or 60 individual candidate interviews to conduct (with contested state, national, county and sometimes city positions) — which was very difficult to handle while putting out the opinion pages every day.

      I always felt like we should include candidates for school boards, but how could we? That would have doubled the number of interviews.

      A news editor faced similar resource issues, even back when there were 150 people in the newsroom (about 50 of them reporters, counting sports and features writers). And proper news coverage is constant, not something you just deal with by having an interview when there’s an election.

      All of this has made me wonder over the years — are people just inherently less interested in local issues, or do they take less interest in them because they haven’t been adequately informed about them?

      I don’t know… Probably both…

      Reply
      1. Guy

        It is very difficult to discuss local issues because we are so poorly informed now with the demise of local media. It is a true shame. There has been much change to leadership with the recent local elections in the midlands, and I guess time will tell how things will work out for better or worse.

        I will tell you after having been to North Charleston over the weekend for a music festival that our current infrastructure is comparable to Most sub Saharan African countries. South Carolina is a failed State by most metrics, even if it is one of natural splendor.

        Just my two cents…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You’re completely right.

          Throughout our history, the Legislature has done all it could to keep local government either nonexistent or too fragmented and weak to function properly (just as it has done to the executive branch on the state level).

          And that’s what we live with in South Carolina…

          Reply
        2. Doug Ross

          But we raised the gas tax and we added another penny to the sales tax to fix all these infrastructure issues… shockingly, it hasn’t happened. The same stretch of road in Northeast Columbia — Hardscrabble road — from Farrow to Rimer Pond (several miles) — has been a mess for YEARS now. They start projects and then nothing happens for months.

          Anyone who thinks the redo of Malfunction Junction will be completed within 50% of the budget and within two years of the proposed completion needs to share where they get their drugs from. I’ve learned to never expect anything efficient or on budget from the government and I’ve yet to be surprised. Zero accountability, all pie in the sky b.s. from politicians when they rob us of more tax dollars… I’m waiting for the next money grab.

          Reply
    2. Doug Ross

      Just call it Innovista and say the housing is powered by hydrogen and will create 16,000 jobs and everyone will jump on board. Worked for Steve Benjamin.

      I’m actually impressed with how Bull Street is building out — slowly, probably affected a lot by COVID shutdowns — but looking better all the time.

      Also surprised that there doesn’t appear to be a slowdown in the housing market. Houses in my neighborhood have “under contract” signs on them within a few days.. every home in the new sections being built are sold out at prices 50-75% of what we paid 7 years ago. Seems like there is a net migration of people from high tax and/orcolder states. Fact: “Over the last 10 years, California lost more than 1.625 million net domestic migrants—more than the population of Philadelphia.” Fact: “in New York City, from 2019 to 2020, the net loss more than tripled. Excluding moves marked as “temporary,” net out-migration from the city increased by an estimated 130,837 from March 2020 through June 2021, as compared to pre-pandemic trends.”

      Reply
      1. Barry

        and higher taxes are coming as those folks move and want comparable services – or overwhelm school districts.

        I have a coworker that moved to the state about 4 months ago. Last week he was complaining about the lack of good healthcare facilities/hospitals close to his home.

        Reply

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