Strolling into the brand-new stadium at Spirit Communications Park in the BullStreet neighborhood in downtown Columbia, S.C., for a Columbia Fire flies Minor League Baseball game – surrounded by 10,000 fellow fans – it’s hard to believe that you’re standing in the middle of what was once the enormous S.C. State Hospital campus, by necessity disconnected from the daily operations of the city. A mixed-use redevelopment of the hospital property, BullStreet is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in South Carolina history, transforming over time into a one-of-a-kind new neighborhood – a city within a city, located within one mile of the S.C. State House.
The BullStreet neighborhood spans 181 acres, an almost unthinkably big piece of land. In fact, it is widely described as the largest piece of undeveloped urban land east of the Mississippi. Planned to roll out section by section over the next 15-20 years, BullStreet is turning an abandoned piece of land into a new downtown neighborhood, filled with an engaging mix of local and national shops and restaurants, high-quality entertainment, comfortable residences, public art and parks.
Before Greenville’s Hughes Development Corporation partnered with the City of Columbia to bring the site back onto the grid, it didn’t have modern roads, nor did it have anything resembling an up-to-date water and sewer system or power network. BullStreet had been an independent community, with its own ice house, bakery, laundry and more, as well as an enormous steam plant – the Central Energy Facility – that heated and cooled the entire campus. More than a mile of trellis carried a network of elevated steam pipes, in addition to underground steam pipes, across the campus to nearly every building on the site.
“An existing business district has all of its infrastructure already in place, including road networks, sidewalks and streetlights,” notes Robert Hughes, president of Hughes Development Corporation and lead project manager at BullStreet. “None of that existed at BullStreet when we started, and we have already laid two miles of new roadways with a lot more to come. We still have a long way to go, but we are excited to be bringing 181 acres back on the grid as a partnership with local government.”
Spirit Communications Park, awarded 2016 Ballpark of the Year by BallPark Digest, is home to the Columbia Fire Flies Minor League Baseball team as well as new celebrity team member Tim Tebow. Something unique about the ballpark is that it is open from 7am to dark each day, except for game days and ticketed events, as a public park. Walkers and runners enjoy a 1/3-mile walking track around the concourse, and cross-fitters are often seen running the stairs in the stands for exercise. BullStreet is already home to a growing business community and thriving tech village.
The First Base Building office/retail complex at BullStreet is the largest private office building built in Columbia since 2009, and renovations have transformed the historic Parker Annex and Bakery buildings into comfortable, modern offices. Renovations are underway at the Ensor Building and the Central Energy Facility, and a major historic renovation is planned for the iconic Babcock Building. Meanwhile, TownPark at BullStreet will be a residential development of 28 townhomes with roof terraces, garages and a private park.
“About 20 years ago in the Upstate, our company joined with a lot of like-minded local leaders and businesspeople to focus on transforming downtown Greenville, S.C., from a blighted, desolate area into what it is today: a bustling, vibrant urban core,” says Hughes. “Some unfamiliar with Greenville might think the change happened over the course of a few years; however, it took more than two decades. With broad support and collaboration, we are confident we can emulate what happened in Greenville at BullStreet.”
For more information on the BullStreet neighborhood, visit www.bullstreetsc.com and follow @BullStreetSC on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.