The City of Orangeburg has chosen a company to develop Railroad Corner.

Orangeburg City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to enter into a development arrangement with Orangeburg University District Partners to develop the property.

“It is a brand-new day in Orangeburg,” Councilman Dr. Kalu Kalu said about the project moving forward.

City officials often refer to Railroad Corner as the gateway into the city. It’s located at the intersection of Russell, Magnolia and Boulevard streets.

Plans call for reallocating building facades, foundations or materials in new ways that aim to maintain the sense of place and history, but provide the benefit of some new architecture.

The plans include adding four-story, mixed-use development with ground-floor commercial and upper-story residential.

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The project will preserve the former State Theater building as a cultural space and potential museum, extend multifamily units along Treadwell Street and redevelop the former gas station into new commercial space.

Plans include the creation of walk-through opportunities with urban and plaza spaces combined with retail. Additional parking would be added on Treadwell Street.

The redevelopment recommendation would cost a total of $18.2 million, with an anticipated public investment of between $4.5 million and $5 million.

“What we envision is a project that will spur other development there in the downtown corridor that will serve as a catalyst,” said Larry Salley, chairman of the HBCU Community Development Action Coalition and principal of the OUDP.

“We really want to make this a comprehensive development that of course embodies the vision of revitalization that you all see for the community,” he said.

The group has had conversations with both Claflin University and South Carolina State University, which will have an ownership interest in the development of the corner.

“We recognize the needs of the community,” Salley said. “We certainly are working with the community to realize their vision.”

Bob Jenkins, a partner in OUDP, expressed his appreciation for the confidence the city has placed in the company. He promised to work with all interested parties, including citizens, the universities and businesses to “build a fantastic, great project.”

“We put together a team, a team that we are confident can get this job done,” Jenkins said. “This project is going to have multiple goals.

“It will serve as a gateway to downtown Orangeburg. It will serve as a bridge between the universities and the community, the downtown.”

Jenkins said the project will also pay homage to the history of the Railroad Corner and the achievements and successes of Black businesses.

Jenkins said he was personal friends with the late Paul Webber III, who was a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Webber was the son of Paul Rainey Webber Jr. and Clemmie Embly Webber, who ran the College Soda Shop at the Railroad Corner.

“We understand the history we are going to recognize and honor,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the project will bring quality housing for students as well as quality goods, services and amenities “so students at Claflin and South Carolina State can walk across the street and have the same amenities as they do in Columbia at the University of South Carolina.”

Jenkins said the group is committed to bringing back the historic State Theater as well.

“I have worked on a lot of projects in my career but this is without question my favorite,” he said.

The city will enter negotiations for a Memorandum of Understanding with Virginia-based OUDP and then, once executed, begin negotiations on the development agreement for the site, according to a city press release.

Hopes are that ground will be broken on the project by the third quarter of 2023.

“We just can’t wait,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said.

City leaders will address project costs as the process develops.

Minority-owned OUDP was one of two groups to submit full proposals to develop the property.

During the application process, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s School of Government Development Finance Initiative had direct communication with 38 firms.

City leaders engaged DFI in December 2020 to evaluate the redevelopment feasibility of Railroad Corner.

The groups submitting proposals were vetted and reviewed by the DFI.

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