Columbia County leaders officially broke ground at the site Tuesday of what they say will be the heart of the county.
Ground work has already begun on a multi-use development complete with office, retail and restaurant space next door to a new 2,000-seat performing arts center, triggering what officials are calling an exciting time in Columbia County.
For those who grew up in the county, like Meybohm Realtors President Mike Polatty, the area is unrecognizable from his childhood days in the 1960s, he told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking. The Plaza, he said, presented a rare opportunity to add their own contribution to the county’s history books.
“What we had here was two churches, a general store, two service stations and a first through twelfth grade school and we had a community of people who lived and worked together and enjoyed the quality of life in Columbia County,” Polatty said. “In the development business, rarely do you have a chance to go back in time and recreate something. And today, for us that’s what this means. For E.G. (Meybohm), myself, all the people on the development team, the county, we get a chance to do something truly unique to start over and define something for the future.”
E.G. Meybohm and Meybohm Realtors are the private piece of the public-private partnership that helped make the area possible, according to Columbia County commission chairman Ron Cross.
“(E.G. Meybohm) brought the money that made this happen,” Cross said.
Meybohm Realtors will occupy one-third of the first 57,000 square foot, three-story building, where the company plans to relocate their agents and staff currently at their Belair Road location, according to Polatty.
A roof-top terrace, which can accommodate some 300 people, will overlook the downtown area and Lady Antebellum Pavilion. Storefronts at street level will accommodate restaurants and other retailers that were not named at the groundbreaking.
The building will be just one part of The Plaza’s entire footprint which will total more than 300,000 square feet.
“The master plan calls for a center park with the new Columbia County Performing Arts Center anchoring at one end of the park and then we have a total of six buildings that will surround that greenspace and lead down to the performing arts center,” Polatty said.
Cross paid special thanks to the residents of Columbia County, who he credited with making the vision into reality with the passage of the SPLOST and the general obligation bond.
“The bond issue is making a lot of this possible, the SPLOST you have approved in the past, it’s a county collaborative,” Cross said. “The support has been great. Your confidence in what we are doing is just outstanding.”