Thursday, July 17, 2014

Planned redevelopment of landmark airplane hangar at Hamilton-Owens Airport (KCUB) doesn’t fly ... for now

COLUMBIA, SC — Partners in the planned restoration of a landmark 1929 steel-and-glass airplane hangar at Columbia’s Hamilton-Owens Airport are moving on.

A contract expired last week between Richland County and CW Hangar Partners, who put three years into plans to buy and redevelop the empty building across from City Roots farm in Rosewood.

Commercial developer Ed Garrison said the group “didn’t even come close” to raising the $4.7 million needed to turn the spacious building into an events venue, restaurant and small aviation museum.

“We’re all very disappointed,” he said.

Rosewood residents and boosters had rallied behind the project, which would have saved one of the last hangars remaining from a Depression-era partnership between Glenn Curtiss and the Wright Brothers.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said City Roots owner Robbie McClam, an architect-turned-farmer. “It’s in disrepair, unfortunately, and I’m sure it was going to be very expensive to bring up to the standards we’d all like to see.”

But McClam said the developers’ legwork could allow someone else to step in to preserve an important historic building.

Jenna Stephens, president of the Rosewood Community Council, agreed. “It is such a cool space that something has to come along there.”

Three other partners in the deal were Five Points businessman Scott Linaberry, architect Joseph Rogers and real estate broker Ben Riddle.

Linaberry said he hopes a nonprofit organization or partnership of local governments might take over where his group left off.

Richland County Councilman Greg Pearce, the council liason to the airport commission, said he’s interested in exploring the alternatives.

“It’s one of two or three surviving Curtiss-Wright hangars in the whole country,” Pearce said. “The Curtiss-Wright organization was the pioneering force behind modern-day air travel. It’s a building that has historic value, and I would hate to see it continue to decay down to nothing.”

Linaberry said the group’s structural engineer found the building to be in pretty good shape, with mostly cosmetic problems. Granted, he said, “There are some things we could do to shore it up and still maintain the visual integrity of the building as it was in ’29.”

Six or eight months ago, the vintage B-25 bomber that had been housed in the hangar was moved by the S.C. Historic Aviation Foundation, which now owns the plane, airport director Chris Eversmann said.

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