More Columbia Tax Dollars Going to Waste on Supermarkets?
Monday, January 14, 2013 at 10:14AM
ColumbiaCents in Columbia city council, TIF, TIF, columbia sc, economic development, fiscal activism

Proposed Site of Farrow Road Shopping CenterColumbia City Council has a new plan for sparking life into one of NoCo's traditionally troubled community, the Farrow Road area. The new beacon of hope? An unnamed Grocery store and Shopping plaza.

You probably already know about the plan to subsidize the Bull Street Development project. There are many other projects in the plan as well some more thought out than others. This is one of more questionable ones.

Preliminary plans contemplate this parcel to be developed into a new 70,000-square-foot retail and commercial center, including a grocery store, a restaurant, a drug store, a bank, and various retail and specialty shops. - Renaissance TIF ordinance

Price tag for subsidizing a grocery store - 3 MILLION

I agree the Farrow Road area needs help. What’s the plan here though? Does anyone believe that a Bi-Lo is going to change the fortunes of Farrow Road?

Instead this seems more likely political quid pro quo, targeting more a councilman’s district rather than fighting blight in the area. This same site was to be a veteran’s assisted living home. Plans for that were scrapped due to the Senior Matters project being unable to get support even to break ground. Enter the Farrow Road Shopping Complex, the next idea to be thrown at the wall for developing the area.

Yet another example of another business getting preferential treatment in Columbia at the expense of others Farrow Road is getting more public money at the expense of the surrounding areas. There are grocery stores and supermarkets near Farrow that people currently shop. Those businesses will take a loss of customers and they won’t have the government there to bail them out. The people of North Columbia work at the nearby stores to feed their family as well. By subsidizing this new shopping center the city is risking their jobs to shoehorn more money into this area.

The city has proven little ability to spark economic development in North Columbia. Columbia Housing Authority has invested heavily in the community already. It is also near Clyburns Pedestrian Bridge, another 4 million dollar public project that has done little to stop runners from crossing 277.

The best solution is to just eliminate this portion of the TIF. Just don’t spend the money. Columbia is littered with examples of well intentioned government real estate speculation gone bad. For example the North Main Plaza nearby stands empty, It’s businesses having been unable to turn a profit and closed. The City attempted another grocery store in Celia Saxon Center, next to the Drew Wellness Center. Columbia Food Fresh failed shortly after opening. Currently Celia Saxon is almost empty. A bank and a tax preparer are the only private retail left. The City even moved its Employee Health Center there to make some use of the space.

Lets help North Columbia but do it in a responsible fashion. Despite just throwing money at random spots in North Columbia lets build on the success of main street by allowing the private sector to expand over time. Rather than investing in grocery stores make our city safer and reduce the rampant homelessness in the city. Until these underlying problems are fixed all the grocery and drug stores that OUR dollars subsidize won’t make a dent in the blight of North Columbia .

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Article originally appeared on Columbia SC Politics (http://www.columbiacents.com/).
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