WEST COLUMBIA — Developers of a proposed creative and entrepreneurial complex in West Columbia wanted a project that would be the first of its kind in South Carolina.
That’s why JAMS + STARK turned to Savannah College of Art and Design for Colite City, a redevelopment project meant to repurpose a former manufacturing plant into a “makers” community across three blocks at a busy byway of the state capital’s twin city. The project marks the first building designed by students from the prestigious Georgia arts college.
“We wanted to create an innovative entrepreneurial campus so we wanted to have something unique that would attract people to not only stay (in Columbia) but move here,” Director of Development Wade Caughman said.
“We talk about, ‘I wish we had this from other cities.’ So we wanted to build something and design something that makes those other cities envious of us.”
On a damp December evening, rain dripping from the ceiling in the dimly lit industrial space that once housed global sign-maker Colonial-Hites Company, a team of SCAD architecture and design students shared their concept for the first 150,000-square-foot phase that will include a convention center, a wedding and event venue dubbed “The Factory,” and a food hall.
Images of a jewel-box Atrium with a grand lighted staircase and scattered, riser-style seating were projected on the walls.
The students Suggested local artist murals on a pair of silos outside the building and an infinity-pool water feature. Reflective metal surfaces and mirrored ceilings dominated the interior, offset by bright neon artistic features standing out from the gray concrete.
A Gathering area outside the convention space, called “The Gallery,” could sport digital display screens for event info or rotating art installations.
An Atrium could be built around a Lone tree that busted through the industrial landscape in the would-be food hall.
In the wedding and event venue, the industrial pool where Colonial-Hites workers once dipped and sealed the signs they produced could be covered over with glass, a digital screen below allowing customers to project images beneath the floor.
JAMS + STARK, like many past companies that have turned to SCAD for its design expertise, asked the students to create a space they themselves would enjoy, as those students and their peers will one day be the target audience for Colite City as it seeks to help Columbia hold on to more of its college graduates from six area campuses.
“When (customers) are coming to us, they want to see what the vision of the future might be from the next generation of Incredible designers,” said SCAD’s interior design chair Chi-Thien “CT” Nguyen. “They get that Incredible Gen Z focus from our students. They get a sounding board for new ideas.”
They also get a diversity of ideas.
“We have students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in our Talent pool, so we’re pulling in so many different perspectives and backgrounds,” said Zach Ott, director of partnerships for SCADpro, the school’s Collaborative design studio.
SCAD has helped revitalize its home city of Savannah and also has partnered with major corporations, including Google and Deloitte, earning the college’s projects a national reach.
Ott said he thinks Caughman was impressed with how SCAD has transformed Savannah.
“He’s sort of in the same mindset,” Ott said, especially when it comes to West Columbia.
Colite City’s hopes of appealing to a mix of arts, artisans and technology companies is inspired by similar developments in other cities, like Camp North End in Charlotte and Industry City in the New York City Borough of Brooklyn. Plans also include adding a housing component to the complex in the future to further widen the property’s mix.
JAMS + STARK would like to start construction at the beginning of 2023 with hopes of housing the first Tenants in October.