From 19th Century Asylum to Recreational Hub

The Babcock Building in the BullStreet District in Columbia, S.C. The building will undergo a $42 million renovation to become 209 apartments. Photo Credit: Sean Rayford for The New York Times

The South Carolina Lunatic Asylum opened in 1828 and discharged its last patient 160 years later. The institution, which sits on 181 acres, is now being converted into one of the largest mixed-use districts in the nation, with office, retail and multifamily components and a minor league baseball stadium. This is not the only redevelopment of an architecturally significant 19th century psychiatric institution in the U.S. Similar projects were undertaken in Michigan and Massachusetts over the past 15 years. The BullStreet District in Columbia, SC is an example of public/private cooperation that has steadily won over a public skeptical for cost and preservation reasons. It hasn’t been easy and it still has a long way to go, but the project is attracting tenants. It is a success story for Columbia and a model for other urban reconstruction projects.

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