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Columbia, South Carolina Getting a 130 Unit Condo Hotel;
To be Marketed to Football Fans and State Lawmakers

By Jeff Wilkinson, The State, Columbia, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Sep. 9, 2006 - Add another term to the lexicon of downtown's building boom:

"Condo-tel."

Game day condominium pioneer Gary Spillers plans to build one of his patented "Gameday Centers" on Lady Street. It would be the city's first condo hotel.

Spillers on Thursday signed a contract to purchase, with local partners, the Columbia Supply company site, which runs between Gervais and Lady streets in the block between Lincoln and Gadsden streets.

He plans to build a 130-unit, six- to seven-story condo hotel and market it to Gamecock fans and state lawmakers. Prices could run as high as $1 million.

The concept works like this: Buy one of the units, use it when you please, then let Spillers' company rent it out when you're not there.

"Columbia is a hotbed for college football, and a state capital," Spillers said. "This is perfect for people who are in and out of town."

Local partners in the project, headed by developer Neel Keenan, are planning retail development and apartments on the Gervais Street side of the lot -- and perhaps a restaurant in the historic Columbia Supply building, which will be preserved.

A pedestrian breezeway would run through both developments, connecting Lady and Gervais.

"Our thought is mixed-use," Keenan said. "It's still very preliminary. But (Columbia Supply) is a neat building. It's a great asset, and we can play with it."

Keenan said environmental cleanup on the property -- which stored coal tar that powered Columbia's street lights in the early 20th century -- should be complete by November.

"We're expecting a clean bill of health," Keenan said.

Construction on the twin project could begin next spring.

Units in the condo-tel will run from a tiny 350-square-foot efficiency for $180,000 to a 2,000-square-foot penthouse for $1 million, Spiller said.

All of the units will be furnished "down to the knives, forks and corkscrew," he said.

Of course, an owner can lose the furniture for their own after the sale, but it will come with the package anyway.

Spiller said his company's experience in building, marketing and running the centers -- as well game day shuttles to the stadium -- will be stiff competition for cockominium projects closer to Williams-Brice Stadium.

And then there's the location in the midst of the Vista's bars, restaurants and shops.

"Those guys out at the stadium? I wish them all well," Spillers said. "But the Vista is the place to be."

Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., a public-private partnership that boosts investment in the Vista and downtown, called the project "fabulous."

A mix of retail and restaurant space alongside apartments and a condo hotel "is exactly the right type of development for this neighborhood," Delk said.

"It will help the convention center. It will add more people on the street. They will have credit cards. And they will be ready to spend in our restaurants, shops and bars. It's perfect."

Reach Wilkinson at (803) 771-8495.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The State, Columbia, S.C.

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