Columbia, S.C. to See Major Retail Project Anchored by Wal-Mart

Dec. 14--Wal-Mart's decision to turn the old Bush River Mall site into a Supercenter means new life for a long-time retail eyesore.

Developer Meyers Brothers Properties of Atlanta has purchased nearly 33 acres at Bush River Road and I-26 to build a 203,819-square-foot Supercenter plus 43,200 square feet of other retail space.

The project also includes two out parcels available for development and a Wal-Mart gas station.

The Supercenter is expected to be ready for the world's largest retailer by March 2007 and will create around 450 jobs, said Matt Sasser of Meyers Brothers. Additional jobs will be created by the other retailers.

Meyers Brothers purchased seven different parcels along Bush River Road stretching back to the railroad track. The property sits on the line between Richland and Lexington counties. All of the property is in Lexington County except for one parcel.

The property was purchased for $7.6 million. The deal was brokered by managing partner Mac Ogburn and Bobby Hathaway of CB Richard Ellis in Columbia.

Sasser said he could not reveal the total development cost.

The 225,000-square-foot Bush River Mall shopping center closed in 1998 after most of the tenants had moved out. The last occupants were Ben Franklin Crafts and an office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The mall building fell into disrepair in recent years. "When I drove by there I was just embarrassed that my name was on the sign," Ogburn said.

The parking lot had been taken over by skateboarders. Ogburn said at one point his company had to contract with a towing company to discourage truckers from using the lot for storage.

"The thing that I am excited about it how this is going to clean up that whole strip," he said. "A lot of the stuff there had been run down simply because there was no traffic generator."

Sasser said demolition of the property should start in January. Wal-Mart chose the location because the population in the area is very dense.

Added Ogburn: "This is going to rejuvenate that whole triangle of Bush River Road, I-20 and I-26."

The deal involved a handful of operating businesses, but less than a dozen employees were affected.

A small insurance agency has relocated, Ogburn said, as has a waterproofing business.

M&M Auto Sales has until Jan. 2 to give up its property that fronts Bush River Road, Hathaway said.

Bush River Mini Storage shut down but had only one part-time employee, Ogburn said.

"Not many jobs were taken versus the jobs that will be added," he said.

One piece of property included in the deal was a former strip club just across the county line in Richland County.

Ogburn expects business activity in the area to pick up.

"You will get a couple of motel people that will look at some sites and want to know what will happen there," he said. "There are a couple of businesses closed along Bush River because there was no traffic there and somebody else will occupy those buildings."

Retail property along Bush River has declined since the mall closed. Ogburn blamed local developers' tunnel vision.

"They think that is just another dog site," Ogburn said. "But for someone who sees the big picture and does this in plenty of communities, they don't have those sorts of biases about a piece of property."

Meyers Brothers also announced that it is developing a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Batesburg-Leesville, which is expected to open in 2007.

Through a partnership with the Fletcher Bright Co. of Chattanooga, Tenn., Meyers Brothers has developed more than 30 shopping centers since 1983 throughout the Southeast. Nearly all of them are anchored by Wal-Mart.

(State, The (Columbia, SC) (KRT) -- 12/15/05)