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Proposal in works to expand Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

The City of Columbia could be seeing a bigger convention center, more hotels, apartments, and a parking garage in the coming years.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The City of Columbia could be expanding the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The expansion is expected to bring over five billion dollars to the city.  

"This will be a catalyst for huge development for years to come," said Carl Blackstone, President/CEO of the Columbia Chamber. 

Blackstone said the Columbia City Council and the Richland County Council will vote on whether this expansion will be allowed. 

The proposal includes 675 more hotel rooms, 195 apartment units, and a parking garage that would provide more than a thousand parking spaces. 

"I think it’s gonna add a ton of excitement and viability to downtown," Blackstone said. "The expansion would be, we’re talking hundreds and hundred of jobs which would be a huge boost downtown."

President of the Columbia Convention Center, Bill Ellen, told News 19 the project would cost around $69. Ellen said the city will be missing financial opportunities without the expansion. 

"We are missing out on business for not having enough available space," Ellen said. "It would open up a whole new market to us as far as conventions and meetings and conferences."

Ellen said the city is at the time where we are at full capacity and the expansion is much needed. 

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Blackstone said Columbia will continue to grow with or without the expansion.

"We're still thriving Downtown," Blackstone said. "We're at a good clip right now, but do we want to grow it? Do we want to expand our capability? And that's the question right now before us."

Ben Arnold is the private developer for the expansion project. Ellen said Arnold did not give a specific project approval date but there is a sense of urgency because of the current low-interest rates. 

According to Ellen, if council members for the city and county approve the project, it could be complete in about three years. 

"It's a very exciting project," Ellen said. "I hope those in position to make a decision will think in a positive and a forward manor and move the city farther."

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