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Developers look to bring new life to old funeral home in downtown Columbia

Developers are turning the old Dunbar Funeral Home into apartments and a cafe or deli.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of developers hope to bring new life to an old funeral home at the corner of Gervais and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia. 

Commonly remembered as the old Dunbar Funeral Home, the original WB Smith Whaley House, one of the oldest properties in Columbia, is being re-developed.

According to developers, the historic home will retain its history while being updated into the 21st century. 

It was built in the late 1890s, and WB Smith Whaley lived in the home for several years. After he left, it was used as a residential home until in 1924 when it became the Dunbar Funeral Home.

Credit: City of Columbia

Chris Rogers, one of four partners in the development, says the 8,000 square foot house will see apartments constructed on the second and third floors, with either a café, coffee shop or deli on the bottom.

"It is on the Register for National Historic Places," Rogers said. "We're preserving the building itself and all its historic characteristics will be there."

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Credit: City of Columbia

Developers, who partnered with GBX, an equity group in Cleveland that invests in historic preservation, have budgeted $2 million for the renovations. That's on top of the $2 million to purchase the home.

"I think it will be a great improvement for that area, especially with the law school across the road," Rogers said.

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Rogers describes the amount of work as extensive. "The electrical, plumbing and mechanical needs to be re-done, we’re going to need to put finishes in for the apartments and the restaurant space downstairs.”

Jimmy Herlong, owner of Midas next door, says he's excited about the foot traffic his future neighbors could bring to "probably the most recognized corner in this corridor, the Gervais corridor." He expects it will "bring some life to a corner that's not been used at all." 

The developers say they hope to have everything completed by this fall.

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