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Columbia Business Monthly

Still Hopes Acquires Land, Partners With Theater

Mar 16, 2018 08:10AM ● By Emily Stevenson

Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community, a ministry of the Episcopal Church since 1977, announced that it is acquiring two pieces of property currently owned by Lexington School District Two on Ninth Street in West Columbia, S.C., totaling 12.5 acres. One 10-acre parcel, the District Education Center at 715 9th St., is intended to accommodate long-term, future growth. The other 2.5-acre parcel, the former Fine Arts Center at 824 B Avenue, will be home to not only a new childcare center owned and operated by Still Hopes but also a new facility for Columbia Children’s Theatre.

Lexington Two’s District Education Center Property: Insurance for Long-Term Growth

The 10-acre District Education Center property is a long-term strategic purchase for Still Hopes and will not see near-term development. The parcel is currently home to Lexington Two offices, which will remain active in their current location for at least the next three years and could stay for as many as five years total. The property runs along Still Hopes’ western border and will provide room for expansion in the distant future for the Episcopal-sponsored, all-inclusive, non-profit continuing care retirement community.

The real estate deal is seen as a shared opportunity by Still Hopes and Lexington Two. The school district plans to construct a new, purpose-built, highly efficient office building and performing arts center in one location, at a site yet to be determined, allowing for joint use of space and thus affording the school district a way to reduce operational and program costs for years to come.

“This partnership offers some great opportunities for children, including a new performing arts center for Lexington Two students, a new home for the popular Columbia Children’s Theatre and a high quality child care facility,” Lexington Two Superintendent Dr. William James said. “It’s a great use of space for our family friendly community, and we’re proud to be a part of making it happen.”

Still Hopes currently is managing a $90 million expansion and renovation project which includes the WellPointe Project’s independent living apartments for active seniors. (Learn more about the WellPointe Project at While WellPointe is a current project, no development plans are under consideration for Still Hopes on the Lexington Two office property, which is intended to provide a positive way for Still Hopes to assure that it can meet any increased need that may arise in the next 20 years and beyond for high quality, active, retirement housing with services.

“The WellPointe Project’s expansion of an additional 81 active senior apartments, which is already underway, fully meets the anticipated near-term growth of the Columbia metro market for additional retirement housing of the kind that Still Hopes provides,” notes Betsy Gray, board chair at Still Hopes. “There is no set plan for the District Education Center property’s use, other than to be good stewards of the ministry created by Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard to create and maintain quality housing and services to retirees in perpetuity. This move is truly about preserving a way forward, if and when that opportunity presents itself in the long-term future, and I applaud the Still Hopes Board of Trustees for having the vision and the courage to take this bold step forward.”

The Fine Arts Center Property: Near-Term Use and Future Plans

The other, 2.5-acre property acquired by Still Hopes will see more near-term use. Still Hopes is purchasing the Fine Arts Center, another property owned by Lexington Two on Ninth Street in West Columbia, roughly two blocks north of the District Education Center. After a renovation and addition, the Fine Arts Center building will house a high-quality childcare center owned and operated by Still Hopes for the community at large, with dedicated slots for children of Still Hopes’ staff.

“This childcare center will operate as an extension of our Still Hopes ministry,” says Danny Sanford, executive director at Still Hopes. “It will provide means and methods for the children, along with the retirees of the retirement community campus, to interact in meaningful, planned ways, to add value and quality to the lives of both the children and the seniors. This move, designed to give back to the people of the City of West Columbia, will accomplish that and so much more.”

The land on which the Fine Arts Center is located also is planned to accommodate new construction for the future home of Columbia Children’s Theatre.

A Home for Columbia Children’s Theatre: New Construction via Capital Campaign

Columbia Children’s Theatre, currently located in Richland Mall on Forest Drive, will begin a capital campaign to raise the funds to relocate within the next few years into a newly constructed facility on the parcel of land shared with the planned Still Hopes childcare center. This move will allow the theatre to find its first permanent home and to grow its mission.

“This facility will allow us to expand our programming in a community that is growing and understands that the arts and culture drive economic development and increase quality of life for both children and adults,” states Larry Hembree, Director of Development for the theatre. “We are especially excited about initiating an intergenerational theatre program that partners Still Hopes residents with area youth, providing opportunities for these two groups to create work together; it’s potentially one of the only programs of its kind in the nation.”

Both parcels of land are under contract. The sale of the real estate is contingent upon appropriate zoning by the City of West Columbia. Learn more about Still Hopes at