Community

Published on November 8th, 2019 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Business, neighborhood leaders announce 10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points; call on City, universities to make changes

Columbia, S.C. –At a press conference, business owners, neighborhood leaders, and elected officials announced a new 10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points. The goals of the plan, collaboratively developed by merchants and neighborhood associations, are to make it easier for businesses to open and to return Five Points to its historical place as an urban dining and shopping district that’s bustling morning, noon and night.

“Five Points, the heart of our city for a century, is in trouble today,” said Columbia City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann who spearheaded the press conference. “Iconic and long-time businesses and shops are closing or moving. Prime real estate is sitting vacant. If we do nothing, the results will be predictable with more vacancy, vagrancy and crime. It’s a defining moment for Five Points. It’s time to take action.”

Rickenmann said the 10-Point Plan has been developed by those who best understand issues facing Five Points. “No one knows what needs to be done more than business and neighborhood leaders. We need to trust them to know the best ways to eliminate barriers and bring positive new investment to Five Points.”

Kit Smith, president of the Five Points Coalition of Neighborhoods, spoke at today’s press conference and thanked city leaders for recent steps to focus on Five Points. “It’s good to see the city taking the issues in Five Points seriously. Neighborhood and business leaders are excited to work with the City to collaboratively drive change,” she said.

“Our plan is straightforward, easy to implement, and has good, solid support. We ask the City to implement its recommendations,” Smith said. She believes, if successful, the 10-Point Plan could be adapted to address development barriers in other areas of Columbia as well.

The 10-Point Plan identifies ways to make it faster and more affordable for new businesses to open. It calls on the City of Columbia to expedite business permits in Five Points and revamp policies that can add tens of thousands in start-up costs. These up-front costs can stifle new investment and become “deal killers” for entrepreneurs and business owners.

The plan also calls on the City to improve parking availability and appearance in Five Points, so municipal lots are safe places to park and add to the area’s look and charm.

In addition, the plan calls on the city’s university and college leaders to expand weekend on-campus social activities, including USC opening its new Greek Village for social activities on Friday and Saturday nights.

“What I’ve learned over time is the places that make it the easiest for new businesses to locate have the most new business activity. New investment lands where it’s welcome,” said former S.C. Secretary of Commerce Joe E. Taylor, Jr. “The City’s plan is to offer incentives, but an iconic shopping and entertainment district in immediate proximity to 55,000 students and some of the best neighborhoods in Columbia should be incentive enough. What we need the City to do instead is remove the disincentives, the slow and difficult permitting process, and the upfront fees. Remove the obstacles and the businesses will come.”

The 10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points is included at the end of this press release.

Quotes:

“All neighbors want in Five Points is a safe, friendly neighborhood. Appearance is important and we hope the City, as a start, will light and landscape its new parking lot in the center of Five Points. We are thankful business and neighborhood leaders have rallied around a plan and we look forward to working with the City to bring Five Points back.”
-Kit Smith, president of the Five Points Coalition of Neighborhoods

“When I see the empty storefronts in Five Points, I don’t see a coming apocalypse for our neighborhood, I see a time of tremendous opportunity. Opportunity not only for Five Points but also for the kinds of small family owned businesses that have called Five Points home for over a century. However, for this opportunity and promise to be fulfilled, we need the City of Columbia to make it easier for entrepreneurs to locate their businesses in Five Points. The City doesn’t need to act as a barrier, slowing the progress of potential growth with roadblocks of fees, regulations and delays. We want them to function as a partner to guide new business through the process as quickly and cheaply as possible.”
-Steve Cook, president of the Five Points Association

“Time is money for all business owners. We need the City to work with us to streamline the process and make getting new permits or businesses licenses in Five Points a process of days and weeks, rather than months as it is today.”

  • Amy Beth Franks, owner, The Gourmet Shop and former director of the Five Points Association

“We have proven retail can be successful in Five Points, however, with onerous equipment fees and startup charges, there are too many obstacles to new investment. We need to get rid of the disincentives and increase efforts to recruit retail and other daytime businesses. Today, the area looks tired and needs to be “spiffed up.” With simple changes like adding a central parking kiosk and replacing old parking meters with flower planters, I believe we’ll begin to see property values in Five Points rise as fast as the rest of South Carolina.”

  • Rox Pollard, vice president and director of Retail Services Colliers International

“Building in Five Points and the city is unduly painful, expensive and time consuming. I wish the City would focus more resources on policing criminals than on overregulating law-abiding taxpayers in Five Points.”

  • Kirkman Finlay, owner, Pawleys Front Porch and S.C. House Member

“There’s truth in the old saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ If we improve Five Points, then that success will carry over to surrounding neighborhoods like Lyons Street and Waverly, enhancing safety, vitality and property values. I continue to encourage the City of Columbia’s Office of Economic Development to recruit the kinds of businesses that will help Five Points and surrounding neighborhoods.”

-Ed McDowell, Columbia City Councilman

“We need to review and modernize the Five Points zoning overlay. Many parts of it may be stopping new investment or aren’t relevant to today. Let’s face it, over the past 13 years, all Five Points has to show are a Waffle House, Walgreens, Chick-Fil-A and a bank branch. Once again, the City of Columbia has shown that you cannot regulate your way to prosperity.”

  • Joe E. Taylor, Jr., former S.C. Secretary of Commerce

“It’s not enough to close bars catering to underage students, we need to make sure the City of Columbia creates an environment in which new business will locate and flourish in Five Points. I whole heartedly support the proposal by business and neighborhood leaders.”

-Dick Harpootlian, S.C. Senator

“Opportunity abounds in Five Points. With lots of square footage on the market there, it is time to be bold in our business recruitment efforts. We want a full court press in Five Points and hope the City is on board with the 10-Point Plan.”
-April Lucas, Five Points resident and neighborhood association member

10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points

Developed by business and neighborhood leaders

  1. SET A 36-MONTH DURATION

Set up a 36-month program. If it works, it can be extended. If not, it can end.
Responsible: Columbia City Council

  1. IMPROVE THE CITY PARKING LOT APPEARANCE

The City of Columbia parking lot sets the appearance standard for Five Points. Develop and implement a resurfacing, landscape and lighting plan and add new signage. Remove unsightly meters and replace with a central payment kiosk. Make the City of Columbia parking lot look inviting and safe.
Responsible: City staff

  1. WAIVE WATER & SEWER EXPANSION FEES

Waive water and sewer expansion fees when applicable. These fees can be up to $8,000 per 1,000 square feet.
Responsible: Columbia City Council

  1. MAKE GREASE TRAP REQUIREMENT FLEXIBLE

Develop, promote and approve less-expensive alternatives for food service operations, without compromising water quality or harming the environment.
Responsible: City staff

  1. STREAMLINE THE PERMITTING PROCESS

Implement a fast-track permitting process for Five Points allowing small permits under $20,000 to be approved by the City of Columbia in 7 days, medium permits under $250,000 in 30 days, and large permits in 60 days.
Responsible: City staff

  1. INCREASE PARKING ACCESS AND AVAILABILITY

· Waive on-site parking requirements. Today, the City can make businesses rent parking places, which could mean monthly costs up to $800 per thousand square feet of space.

· Charge for street parking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which would encourage employees to park in the free municipal lots and facilitate faster turnover of spaces in front of businesses.

· Remove unsightly street meters and convert to a central payment kiosk.

· Dedicate parking revenue to Five Points parking improvements and landscaping.
Responsible: Columbia City Council

  1. REVIEW AND MODERNIZE THE FIVE POINTS ZONING OVERLAY

Establish a committee to review the Five Points Overlay and ensure its regulations are relevant today, including heights, required approvals, and density.
Responsible: Columbia City Council

  1. EXPAND SIDEWALK DINING

Encourage sidewalk dining by creating an annual permitting process and examine the use of “parklets” to provide more dining space for individual restaurants.
Responsible: City staff

  1. HOLD CITY OF COLUMBIA’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICE ACCOUNTABLE

Have the City of Columbia’s Office of Economic Development create and implement a plan to recruit new businesses to Five Points to include:

· Targeting specific city-center businesses for recruitment like destination retail, hotels, office space including co-working, specialty food stores, restaurants and cafes, and local small businesses, especially daytime businesses.

· Assist with zoning, permitting and regulatory approvals.

Report progress monthly to the City Manager, City Council and Five Points Association.
Responsible: City staff

  1. CITY’S UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES TO PROMOTE WEEKEND ON-CAMPUS SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Encourage the University of South Carolina, Benedict College, Allen University and Columbia College to promote on-campus social activities on weekends, including, in USC’s case particularly, opening the Greek Village on Friday and Saturday nights for social events.
Responsible: University and college leaders

GOAL: Make it easier for new businesses to locate and open in Five Points.


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