Development Moves Up North Main

Key Takeaways

  • North Main Street is an emerging retail corridor unique to Columbia.
  • Grocer wars continue.

North Main: An Emerging Retail Corridor

In August of 2015, 224 market rate units and 1,992 beds of student housing were delivered downtown. This summer, another 524 market rate units and 1,530 beds delivered. Together, these developments added nearly 5,000 new residents to downtown and are radically reshaping the retail market in and near downtown. Historically, retailers stretched from the State House to Laurel Street, with little interest in going north of Elmwood Avenue. Today, however, the North Main Street corridor is beginning to see increased interest from developers, retailers and office users. The corridor is surrounded by the recently gentrified Cottontown, Elmwood Park and Earlewood neighborhoods; is near four colleges; and is within walking distance of the Central Business District and many of the region’s largest employers.

Several factors are driving growth in this corridor. The cost of land and existing properties along North Main is low relative to competing properties downtown. The City and State are providing financial help to further incentivize growth in the area through reuse of existing buildings and infill development. The City’s Vacant Abandoned Building Incentive Program awards between $1,000 and $20,000 towards the purchase, preservation and repair of qualifying properties. The Bailey Bill encourages the reuse of existing buildings across the city by locking the property tax values on qualifying properties at the time of purchase. Additionally, Richland County has begun streetscaping projects to enhance the walkability, safety and aesthetic of the North Main Street corridor from River Drive to Columbia College.

As is typical for a redevelopment push, food and entertainment venues are leading the wave of new businesses opening along the corridor, with residential and office developments likely to follow soon. North Main businesses include Lamb’s Bread Vegan Café, Vino Garage, Sweet Temptations Bakery and Main Street Bakery. Most recently, The War Mouth, a southern barbecue restaurant, opened at 1209 Franklin Street in a repurposed, 2,400-square-foot industrial warehouse, and Studio 2LR, an architecture and interior design company, moved into the 3,400-square-foot space at 2428 Main Street. The Cotton Town Brew Lab is expected to open later this year next to War Mouth at 1223 Franklin Street in a former auto body garage. The brewery will share the 12,000-square-foot space with Indah Coffee Company and include a kitchen and tasting room. NoMa Revival, a new restaurant concept by the owner of Bourbon at 1214 Main Street, has purchased the 7,100-square-foot building located at 2510 North Main Street. The concept includes a beer garden and a butcher counter, as well as a 150-seat concert hall.

All the new businesses are giving new life to existing properties within the corridor. While currently, smaller businesses are moving into the corridor, the former Moore Cadillac site at 2222 Main Street provides 5.3 acres for a larger development. Once this property is repurposed, infill development and continued expansion of the corridor will accelerate. North Main Street is a unique area with the potential to see increased property values, rental rates, infill development and occupancy rates over the next few years. 

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