The Free Times: Plans Announced for Multi-Use Development in North Columbia
By Chris Trainor Nov 2, 2017
A multi-faceted residential and retail development is in the works in North Columbia, not far from Interstate 20.
Development and City of Columbia officials gathered Nov. 2 to formally announce the coming Azurest at Heritage Creek development. Businessman Willie Tompkins — of Bostick-Tompkins Funeral home, among other business ventures — has plans to develop the nearly 37 acres at 1307 Mason Road, which is near the upper end of North Main Street, near Greenview Plaza.
The site is about 6 miles north of the State House. It is about a mile and a half north of the iconic Obama gas station.
According to City of Columbia planning paperwork, the Azurest development is slated to include up to 85 single family homes, up to 95 townhomes, a park, community gardens, a recreation center, an assisted living facility, several business offices, several boutique shops, a couple of casual dining restaurants, up to four quick service restaurants, a co-op grocery and hardware store, refurbished ponds, a banquet hall, a 75-100 room “micro hotel” and a convenience store, among other amenities.
Officials say the land where the development will sit was once owned by the influential Monteith family. County records indicate Tompkins bought the 36 acres in March 2015 for about $747,000.
Tompkins told Free Times he’s not yet sure when he will break ground on Azurest at Heritage Creek.
“It will be coming soon,” Tompkins says. “We want to do something that will give people jobs. … Someone has to start [development in that section of North Columbia]. I want to do good and get it started.”
The announcement of such a dynamic development comes at an opportune time for Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis, who is in the waning days of a competitive race for his seat in Columbia’s mostly African-American District 1, which covers North Columbia, including the site where Azurest will be. Davis is facing challenger Chris Sullivan in the Nov. 7 municipal election.
Much has been made of the revitalization going on in the vicinity of Main Street just north of Elmwood Avenue, in the Cottontown area. There have been decidedly fewer announcements on the economically depressed upper end of North Main.
Davis has insisted development will come to that area, and notes Azurest is a big step.
“The vision for North Columbia is real,” Davis says. “It’s always been real. … There are new businesses coming into North Columbia and new businesses coming to North Main.”
While Azurest would be a private development, the Eau Claire Development Corporation, a nonprofit that is one of several development corporations under the city’s umbrella, will help facilitate business for the nascent multi-use site.
“Our role is to be a catalyst for economic development through retail, commercial and residential,” ECDC’s Cecil Hannibal says. “So, my job is to support [the developers] in any efforts that I can, to help mitigate any issues they may have, supporting them through the city.”