COLUMBIA — A sketch of the North Light development hangs in the entrance to Grove Construction General Contracting.
That sketch is slowly becoming a reality. On Walnut Street, a skeleton of metal beams, scaffolding and temporary stairs is beginning to tower over the buildings around it.
The seven-floor, 22,000-square-foot building on Walnut will eventually house retail and office space, as well as high-end apartments.
North Light will be owner Tony Grove's first ground-up downtown construction project after several years of completing renovations in the area. He's building it for his father and his father's business partner, who own the development.
A third-generation Columbia builder, Grove started his own business in 2009, which serves as a way he can give back to the city he loves. When it's finished, he wants North Light's apartments to attract nonstudents, making downtown more diverse.
"I like to think of the downtown community as in itself a little micro-community of the city," he said. "And for a community, no matter what size, to flourish, it has to have all aspects."
He comes from a family of builders. His father owned part of Little Dixie Construction, and his grandfather owned Grove Construction in the 1950s.
He always knew he'd go into the construction business. In fact, he never stopped to think that he might do anything else. He received his degree in construction management in 2009 and started Grove Construction that same year.
"Construction was always a part of my life, and so many people get to college and are not sure what they want to do, but I knew from when I was 5 or 6," he said.
For his first project, he renovated a building on Ninth Street. He wound up buying the property a year later, remodeling it again and transforming it into two-bedroom luxury apartments and commercial space.
That was the beginning of a trend in his downtown projects — taking old buildings and revamping them into pizzerias, bakeries and other restaurants.
"You're changing it, but you’re keeping the old charm of it," he said. "I like modern buildings, but that’s not what downtown is."
To him, construction projects such as North Light signify another aspect of progress as downtown grows and flourishes, a way of striking a happy medium between new and old.
"I love my city, and I thoroughly enjoy downtown," he said. "That’s where I'm making my investments, and I want to see nothing but success for downtown. I know some people’s definition of success is different than others, but I want to see a growing and thriving district."