New Main Street Continues to Grow


It is tough to stay up to date of all the progress of the New Main Street in the heart of Columbia.  Columbia’s Main Street is becoming an “18-hour district” because of the growing number of dining, entertainment, cultural and residential opportunities, according to a report released Friday by Colliers International.

“A resurgence in the downtown area as a place to live, work and play is creating a vibrant, eclectic Main Street,” the report said. “Higher residential density, new anchors and the expansion of entertainment and cultural venues are all drivers increasing interest in urban retail to serve the area. In turn, this has inspired a wave” of retail redevelopment.

Residential growth
A “recent boom” in the number of residents downtown has been driven by new housing complexes for students and young professionals. Millennials and young professionals are moving from the suburbs to downtown, the report said, “where they can live, work and play near their home.”

Since August 2015, 862 market rate apartment units and 3,522 student beds have opened, leading to more than 5,000 new residents downtown. “Additional housing is proposed that would add another 4,500 residents,” the report said.

Main Street hosts several cultural events and seasonal festivals. They include Soda City Market along a three-block stretch every Saturday. “More than 100 local vendors line the street selling produce, bakery items, jewelry, clothing and other handmade products to an estimated 2,000 visitors.”

Also, the Columbia Museum of Art opened in 1998 on Main Street, and the City of Columbia hosts an ice skating rink on the outdoor courtyard of the Museum of Art each year. The Nickelodeon Theater “is a cultural anchor to the growing Main Street district, attracting more than 64,000 attendees in 2016, the seventh consecutive year for attendance growth.”

Major employers like Agape, with more than 100 employees, and the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank’s headquarters, with 390 employees, along with others have helped spur a wave of retailers redeveloping stores on Main Street. They include Mast General Store, which opened in 2011 and now occupies the corner of Main and Taylor streets. The Arcade Mall, Columbia’s first indoor mall, is undergoing renovations to update the common area and shop spaces. Pita Pit has committed to open on the Arcade Mall’s Main Street side, and existing tenants are reshuffling to new spaces within the building.

In the last year, Lula Drake, Public House, East Bay Deli and other restaurants have opened on Main Street. A new bowling alley and restaurant will occupy the former Army Navy store. The former Hennessey’s restaurant building is being redeveloped. Most recently, a breakfast restaurant chain based in North Carolina, Famous Toastery, announced it will open on Main Street adjacent to Cantina 76.

Collectively, the changes are turning Main Street “into an 18-hour district and a destination for residents and visitors. As a result, new local, regional and national retailers will continue to infill the remaining vacant spaces throughout the coming year.”