The Daily Gamecock

A downtown Walmart for Columbia?

Developer with ties to retailer eyeing baseball stadium

Columbia officials may sell the Capital City Stadium property off Assembly Street to potential buyer Bright-Meyers LLC, a Georgia-based commercial real estate company with close ties to Walmart.

The land up for grabs could be the future site of a Walmart, but Columbia Development Corporation Director Fred Delk said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hasn’t confirmed that yet.

“Wal-Mart has not committed to putting a store there,” said Delk, who is one of the negotiators on the Bright-Meyers deal.

As of now, Bright-Meyers only has a one-year, $25,000 contract with the city that enables it to scan the area for possible business development — but city council officials have yet to sign it.

“People have been out of town, and the mayor had a trip,” Delk said.

They will finally decide on whether or not to green-light the sale during the next committee meeting Nov. 1, he added.

The probable land development in the area, which could affect the nearby Rocky Branch Creek, worries some conservation groups.

The creek is on the campus’s south end and streams between Pickens and Assembly streets. It also snakes by Olympia and Granby Mills, where environmental lawyer Bob Guild lives.

“We’re concerned very much with the development affecting water quality and quantity,” said Guild, who is also Granby’s Neighborhood Association president.

Storm water is usually discharged into the Rocky Branch stream. Paving over streams, a common procedure for land development, increases the water discharged, thus swelling a future flood’s impact on the city.

“[Rocky Branch] is the source of extreme flooding,” Guild said.

Having experience with previous Walmart development sites, he said that these types of developments always pave over streams.

“Every Walmart I’ve dealt with has paved over streams.”

Guild isn’t against the development itself, he just wants it done in a way that respects the water near the site.

“We want them to develop the site in a way that preserves the stream,” he said. “It could be done in a way that creates a very attractive environmental amenity and protects USC from future flooding.”

Heeding conservation groups’ concerns, Columbia included water maintenance in the deal.

Bright-Meyers’ contract with the city mandates design regulations that would deter flooding.

“You can’t build one property and create a flood on someone else’s property,” Delk said.

Bright-Meyers’ designs have to address flooding and water quality issues. Should they choose to build anything, the company would also have to go through the Army Corps of Engineers, city engineers, the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s a lot of hoops to take,” Delk said.

Still, if Bright-Meyers goes through the lengthy regulatory process and decides to buy next year, the company will pay $1 million for the property.