Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- An updated plan was unveiled Thursday, with the goal of making it easier for new businesses to open in Columbia's Five Points.
This follows the closure of long-time businesses, like Sylvan & DuBose Jewelers, who called Five Points home since the late 1940's.
"When visitors come in, they see the Main Street corridor, they see the Vista and they see Five Points," said April Lucas, a resident of the nearby Shandon community.
At Thursday's press conference, business owners, neighborhood leaders and elected officials announced a new "10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points".
"We've had closings of long-term businesses, we've had late night bars losing their licenses, we've had iconic businesses moving or closing, and we have vacant buildings. We've had an uptick in crime," said Daniel Rickenmann, Columbia City Councilman for District 4.
The vision for Five Points is to make it an 18-hour experience - a place where you can eat breakfast, walk around and shop, and continue the fun through the evening. This could also include a work-play setting in the future.
"The key for making Five Points successful today is not more incentives. It's removing the disincentives. Make it easier to get a permit, wipe out those up-front fees that are deal killers," said Joe Taylor, Former South Carolina Commerce Secretary. "I've seen it take five months, five months to get a simple building permit down here. Approval of up to 15 different commissions and people. We've got to streamline that. That's just too difficult. We're competing every day for investment in Columbia and investment in Five Points...The little guy is who's getting killed."
Officials say the new plan was written by those who best understand the issues the area faces. It's a plan that's specific to the Five Points area.
"Is this an ambitious plan? No. Really, it's a simple business plan and we need to make sure as we move forward this plan becomes a plan that's set in place, that's focused on Five Points, that doesn't get diluted and become a catch-all for every other area," said Rickenmann.
A 10-Point Plan already exists, and most of the points remained the same.
The new plan names more ways to make it faster and more affordable for new businesses to open.
The 10-Point Plan to Renew Five Points:
- Set a 36-month duration
- Improve the city parking lot appearance
- Waive water & sewer expansion fees
- Make grease trap requirement flexible
- Streamline the permitting process
- Increase parking access and availability
- Preview and modernize the Five Points zoning overlay
- Expand sidewalk dining
- Hold City of Columbia Economic Development Office accountable
- Universities and colleges look for possible ways to promote weekend on-campus social activities
"There are some very easy things that we can fix that are a part of this plan that will change the climate of business culture down here as we know it now," said Amy Beth Franks, owner of The Gourmet Shop, which is celebrating its 40th year in business in Five Points.
"When I see empty store fronts in Five Points, I don't see a coming apocalypse for our neighborhood. I see a time of tremendous opportunity. Opportunity not only for Five Points, but also for the kinds of small, family-owned businesses that have called Five Points home for over a century," said Steve Cook, the President of Five Points Association and owner of Saluda's restaurant. "As some of these empty store fronts transition from college bars into restaurants, streamlining the permitting process, easing the impact fees and making the grease trap requirements more flexible will bring the right kind of businesses to Five Points."
City councilmembers tell us they're working to present the updates in the plan to council.
"A lot of the businesses, particularly along Harden Street, are only open in the evening or late at night. So if you come through here or even walk down the street right now, you'll see a lot of closed doors, a lot of dirty sidewalks, and those flat out don't make a good impression when you bring a retailer through town," said Rox Pollard, Colliers International Vice President and Director of Retail Services.
If successful, city leaders say the plan could be used to help improve other areas of the city.
"A kind of improvement that's going to enhance not only Five Points, but surrounding neighborhoods. M.L. King, Waverly, Lion Street. It's going to be powerful," said Ed McDowell, Columbia City Councilman for District 2.