Planning and discussions for a downtown area in Columbia County have been years in the making, and the project finally is coming to fruition with the opening of The Plaza at Evans Towne Center.
Columbia County had a prime piece of property in Evans that was ripe for development into a town center. Meybohm Real Estate was looking to establish office space in the rapidly growing county. Their goals had all the makings of a great alliance between two heavyweight players.
After all, E.G. Meybohm, chairman of Meybohm Real Estate, says, “Columbia County has been a big part of our business for a number of years. It has a lot of growth going on. We thought we had a chance to do something special for Columbia County as well as for ourselves.”
That something special turned into a public-private partnership between Columbia County and Meybohm to build a $65 million, mixed-used, downtown development in the heart of Evans at the intersection of Ronald Reagan Drive and Evans Town Center Boulevard.
After almost three years of working together, the first building in Phase I, the Meybohm Building, is scheduled to open by the end of September.
The four-story, 58,000-square-foot Meybohm building includes a basement; retail space on the second floor, which is on street level; the Meybohm headquarters on the third story and a special events venue on the rooftop. The building includes four restaurant spaces, and Your Pie, a pizza and craft beer establishment, will be located on the second floor.
Other potential tenants include cyber and computer software companies, medical and legal offices, and insurance companies.
“This is a good spot for anyone who is looking to relocate, add another location or come to this market,” says Lionel Prather, senior vice president of commercial development. “We’re down the street from the courthouse, so having a law office close by would make a lot of sense.”
The new Meybohm office allows the company to consolidate services such as its new homes and relocation divisions into one space. The office features polished concrete flooring; throw rugs; open, collaborative work space; a Success Center for training and lots of windows.
“There is such a beautiful view on the back side of the building, and we incorporated a lot of glass on the back to take advantage of it,” says Meybohm. “The floor-length windows make it very inviting.”
The brick building was designed to have an industrial look like an old mill. “You want something that’s new, but looks like it has always been there,” says John Cates, chief operating officer.
The building has other modern amenities such as a high-speed wireless network. There is a public network for the lobby and parking areas and a private network for Meybohm.
“From a real estate perspective, our business is changing,” says Mike Polatty, president and chief executive officer. “We wanted to create an office where the younger generation and existing Realtors want to come to work every day.”
Along with the available retail space, the rooftop is a welcoming feature for the community as well.
With 1,300 square feet for corporate events and other parties, the rooftop includes indoor space with a bar, an industrial warming kitchen, five TVs and a partially covered veranda with ceiling fans overhead and heaters in the winter. The space can accommodate up to 300 people and seat 120 to 140 people. A preferred list of caterers is available.
More to Come
The 22-acre site, which will be anchored by the Columbia County Performing Arts Center that is under construction, will include two additional phases. Each phase has the capacity for three buildings.
The second building in Phase I will include 45,000 square feet of retail and professional space, and the third building will house 20,000 square feet of professional or retail space. The second and third buildings will front the PAC.
However, the 225-space parking deck, which is part of Phase II and has been put out for construction bids by the county, will be the next structure built.
“It’s going to maintain its integrity,” Polatty says of the development project. “It’s going to look like it all belongs together as new pieces are added.”
The county sought public input about the development of the area, and Cates says community members offered good ideas, particularly about potential retail tenants.
“If retailers in places like Atlanta, Charleston and Charlotte can see that there is a consumer demand for them here, it helps us pitch this space to them,” he says.
A farmer’s market as well as additional green space for events will be built next to the PAC.
A raised crosswalk across Evans Town Center Boulevard connects The Plaza with Evans Towne Center Park to slow traffic and to make it seem like a typical downtown area. The road also is designed to be closed during events.
“It slows the road down to make you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere,” says Cates. “There are world-class events here. This will turn an isolated venue into a gathering space.”
Most of the events at Evans Towne Center Park and Lady Antebellum Amphitheater attract 8,000 to 12,000 people. “This is a natural adjunct to that,” says Meybohm.
The PAC will attract even more events – and people – to the area. In addition, a terraced green space in The Plaza allows for concerts and other uses of the venue.
“We want the community to feel like they can come here and stay here,” says Prather. “They can spend quality time in the area.”
Residential development is shifting to Columbia County, Meybohm says, and The Plaza could include residential space “if there is a market for it.” The residential spaces could include apartments or townhomes. However, says Meybohm, “it has to be affordable.”
“This is part of something much bigger. This will give Columbia County an identity going forward,” says Cates. “A lot of this doesn’t exist in Columbia County yet. This building and this area is a little bit ahead of its time. Everything we’re doing is new, and it’s different. It’s something you’re seeing in larger markets.”
By Betsy Gilliland