W.B. Whaley House will be turned into apartments and a café or deli in a redevelopment project. Photo by Téa Smith.
Downtown Columbia business owners are hopeful that redeveloping the historic W.B. Smith Whaley House, which for years housed the Dunbar Funeral Home, will bring new life to Columbia’s Gervais Street corridor.
Development is being led by a group of developers, including Tom Prioreschi and Capitol Place company. Developers plan to create apartments and a café or deli in the historic home. Construction should be completed by fall, according to WLTX-TV.
Jackie Vazquez, the owner of Haven’s Framemakers & Gallery, which has been across the street from the old funeral home for years, is hopeful her art gallery will see more business with the addition of new residents.
“One thing you can always count on is change,” said Vazquez. “We need [the Gervais area] to be brought back to life.”
Renee Chow, director of marketing for Historic Columbia, said there is more than one way to preserve historic buildings, and repurposing is one of them.
“Every time a city can maintain those connections to its past in the form of buildings, you just preserve the personality, character and history to a place,” Chow said. “It’s this constant connection to past, present and future for our city.”
The building, at 1527 Gervais St., will preserve history while adding more foot traffic and commerce to the area.
“We’re happy about it because it is staying within historic guidelines. We are pro-apartments because we’re a real estate company,” said Steve Taylor, co-owner of Wolfe & Taylor, a real estate company around the block from the house. “And we like the idea of the cafe in the neighborhood.”
The National Register of Historic Places describes the Whaley House as unique for “its stylistic form and detail with its corner turret, irregular plan, and variety of wall texture distinguish it as the only structure of this type in Columbia.” Its unique color and structure make it the most recognized on the corner of Gervais.
The city’s Design/Development Review Commission will hold a public hearing on Feb. 17 in City Hall regarding approval for the exterior design.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Caroline Williamson is an aspiring business journalist and native of Columbia, South Carolina. She was a former editor for the Garnet & Black Magazine and acquisitions intern for UofSC Press, where she developed a passion for editing. Williamson enjoys writing narrative pieces that share unique perspectives and bring justice to those without a voice. She hopes to bring those skills and passion to a regional newspaper or magazine after graduation in May.
Téa Smith is a multimedia journalist from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Smith discovered her passion for creative writing as a staff reporter on her high school newspaper. She is proficient in Adobe Photoshop and continues to learn how to use Premiere and InDesign. She is a lover of the arts. In her free time she enjoys creating visual art, taking photos and writing fiction.