Columbia, S.C. to See Retail/Residential Combo Development

Jul. 2--Kenny's Auto site to have retail, housing

Two local developers have signed a contract to purchase the landmark Kenny's Auto Supply building and adjacent property in Five Points, with plans to build storefronts and upper-story residential units in its place.

Kenneth L. Hooks, known as "Mr. Kenny," has operated a store in the area since 1946. At 82 years old, Hooks said he is ready to take it easy.

"I've been down in Five Points for 60 years," he said. "I think I'm past due for retirement."

If built, the stores, residences and possibly a parking garage would be the first substantial redevelopment in Five Points in years.

It also would represent a new direction for Columbia's eclectic urban village -- adding new storefronts and establishing residential units above them in a denser, more urban design.

The tentative plan conforms to a new master plan for the area.

"We want to get it right no matter what we do," said Ron Swinson, a partner at the CB Richard Ellis commercial real estate firm, who plans to purchase the property with partner Stan Harpe."We want to make sure it enhances Five Points in both function and appearance."

The 52,000-square-foot parcel runs along Blossom Street between Saluda and Santee avenues.

The partners said they plan to buy the property by the end of the year; but, it's too soon to say when construction might begin.

"It's still a conceptual thing," Swinson said. "But (the decision) will probably be the number of units and the price, rather than whether or not we will have those units."

The price of the property was undisclosed.

The plan will not be as ambitious as once envisioned. Harpe said the two tried to purchase the entire, triangular block, but were unsuccessful. "So we've got to move on," he said.

Duncan McCrae, co-owner of Yesterday's restaurant on the northern half of the block and about half of Kenny's parking lot, said he was not ready to sell at the price the two offered.

"We've been in business for 25 years and could be here for another 25 years," he said.

City Council member Anne Sinclair, who represents the area, said the plan as envisioned would be good for the village.

"Developers have to be very creative how they use land in Five Points because there is not much of it," she said. "I feel good about the direction they are heading."

She added City Council has long thought about a parking garage at the location. If the parcel is redeveloped, that would be the time to discuss some sort of public funding for it.

"If it is going to happen, it will happen with this project," she said.

Architect Doug Quackenbush, whose Quackenbush Architects and Planners firm is building the master plan with the Five Points Association, said the mix of residential and retail is "the logical next step" for Five Points.

"The more activity that is introduced into Five Points that doesn't involve getting in a car is very healthy for an urban village," he said.