Shopping Initiative Coming Downtown
From The State Paper - Sept, 4, 2007
More shopping might be in store for downtown
By JEFF WILKINSON
Residential development is on the rise in downtown Columbia, and office space occupancy is at an all-time high. The weak link is shopping.
To boost retail downtown, Columbia City Council is preparing to pay $200,000 for a study to identify what kinds of stores are needed and how to recruit them.
That would be followed by the hiring of a retail coordinator to recruit national retailers, a la King Street in Charleston, and local services, such as dry cleaners and specialty shops.
“Columbia’s urban core is doing very well in office and residential,” said Matt Kennell, the partnership’s chief executive officer. “Retail is the weak leg on downtown’s three-legged stool.”
The yearlong study would be conducted by consulting firm Economics Research Associates of Washington, D.C.
A main focus of the study will be identifying ways to revitalize Main Street and boost shopping options for visitors to the Vista.
Midge McCauley, the firm’s principal, will head up the analysis.
National retailers such as the Gap and Banana Republic are the mother lode, she said, and might be perfect for Main Street downtown or Lady Street in the Vista. Today, the only national retailer downtown is American Apparel, known for American-made T-shirts and youthful, racy ads.
The City Center Partnership, which advocates and guides growth and business development on and around Main Street, would pay the salary of the retail coordinator hired.
“Five years from now, we’ll be looking at a totally different environment down here than you see today,” said Frank Lourie, of Louries Fine Mens Wear