COLUMBIA — An apartment building planned for Tenth Street and Broadway has been cleared to move forward after being put on hold in March because the city lacked sewer capacity.
The Columbia City Council voted unanimously to allow sewer reconstruction and a temporary closing of Tenth Street between East Broadway and East Walnut Street — two steps that clear the way for the building, The Lofts on Broadway, to receive a building permit.
BMT of Columbia, a company managed by the developer of The Lofts at 308 Ninth, will pay the city $50,000 to help replace the Flat Branch sewer line. BMT hopes to connect to the Flat Branch line after it's replaced, but in the meantime its sewage will be directed to the Park Avenue sewer line.
Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the project would not have come before council if not for the city's sewer issues. This is the third downtown project since March that the council has exchanged permission to build for a contribution to the city's utilities. These three were among the eight declared on hold during the March 3 pre-council meeting because of a lack of sewer and other utility capacity.
Collegiate Housing Partners agreed to pay $150,000 for a 351-bed building on Conley Avenue. Opus Development Co. agreed to pay $450,000 for utility upgrades in exchange for approval of a 256-bed apartment building on Locust Street, but the contract is going back through the City Council process after a petition was filed by citizens about the expedited process.
The Lofts on Broadway will have five stories and 36 beds, with the first floor as retail space and the four floors above it as residential. There will be 28 single-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments.
The Flat Branch sewer line probably has enough capacity for the project, St. Romaine said, but grease build-up from nearby restaurants causes maintenance issues. City staff is concerned the added strain of an apartment building could make the problem worse, despite The Lofts' relatively modest size.
The building's zoning, C-2, doesn't require parking, but the developer will lease 40 spaces in the Short Street parking garage and distribute 40 bus passes.
Residents and council members alike praised the project for following plans such as Columbia Imagined.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said the project's modest size is much different from the 256-bed project from Opus Development Co., which would strain an overtaxed sewer system.
Mayor Bob McDavid challenged city staff and the council to find a fully-funded solution to downtown's sewer problem.