COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Lunatic Asylum admitted its first patient in 1828. Ever since, its impressive brick wards surrounded by nearly 200 acres of leafy lawns and gardens served as landmarks in Columbia, the state’s capital.
Almost 200 years later, and three decades after the last patient was discharged, the old brick buildings and expansive open space are being steadily converted into one of the largest downtown mixed-use real estate projects in the nation, a 181-acre development known as the BullStreet District.
A mile from Columbia’s central business district, and more than twice as large, the BullStreet project reflects the latest trends in designing and building compact urban neighborhoods. The district features an array of modern office, residential, retail, entertainment and recreational spaces.
The history of the hospital, which spans the Civil War and two world wars, and its size and location near the heart of Columbia, also drew political friction about its uses and expense to taxpayers. But public conversation began to subside as each new feature was added to the district.
More than $100 million has been invested to construct an inviting downtown destination that Columbia has never had before. BullStreet is steadily emerging as the civic space that Stephen K. Benjamin, the city’s three-term mayor, envisioned when he persuaded the City Council in 2013 to begin collaborating on the project with the Hughes Development Corporation, a developer based 100 miles away in Greenville.
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