Richland County administrator Gerald Seals confirmed Tuesday that the county is finalizing the purchase of three anchor stores at Columbia Place Mall – the former Sears and Dillard’s locations, as well as the soon to-be-vacant Burlington Coat Factory.
However, Seals would not comment on whether the county is planning to purchase the entire mall, which could mean the nearly 60 tenants at the Dentsville shopping center would have to move.
County officials announced in December that they planned to buy property at Columbia Place as part of their Renaissance project. The plan is to move county administrative offices to the mall and for the current administration building on Hampton Street to be razed to make way for a county judicial center. The current judicial center on Main Street would be sold.
When asked if the county planned to purchase the rest of the mall, county spokeswoman Beverly Harris declined to say specifically. “As to the acquisition of any other entities, the County only engages in direct negotiations,” she said in a statement….
What does that mean? And what’s with the secrecy, which has characterized this mysterious “Project Renaissance” since the start? It’s not just the public being kept in the dark, by the way:
“The discussion has been about the anchors,” said Paul Livingston, one of five of the 11 council members to vote against the project, in large part because of the secrecy surrounding it. “But we don’t know” if the sale of the entire mall is being negotiated.
“I support the concept” of purchasing the anchors, he said, noting that importing county workers and constituents would provide a windfall of customers for the merchants. “But there has been no public participation.”…
If members of Council don’t know, then who does? Is this all being planned out of Dr. Evil’s secret underground lair?
This thing has just been really weird from the start.
Show us blueprints. Sketch out the plan, in detail. Then, if the plan survives scrutiny, start buying up property. Don’t do this business where you tell us you’re going to spend millions on some grandiose plan and then shut up, saying, “It’s a secret!” Leave that stuff to the private sector.