Richland County residents will have greater and improved access to County services and public facilities as several major building and renovation projects reach completion in the coming months and remainder of the year.
“The Decker Center renovation, Coroner’s facility renovation and Judicial Center flooring projects are the major ongoing capital projects, with all expected to be complete by the end of the calendar year,” said Richland County Capital Projects Manager Chad Fosnight.
Updates to Pinewood Lake Park are also on the way, he said.
The largest project coming online is the Decker Center, located along the County’s International Corridor. The former Decker Mall Shopping Center is being transformed into a new space for the Richland County Central Court and Sheriff’s Department offices. The $31 million project, which will feature a community meeting space, began in 2015 and renovations are scheduled to be complete by November.
“The Decker Center renovation project continues to progress on schedule and within budget,” Fosnight said. “If you drive down Decker Boulevard, you will definitely notice the changes being made as we have started work on the exterior skin of the building as well as the site work.”
As renovations move from interior projects to external work, Councilman Jim Manning, who represents District 8, said the community is beginning to follow the progress, too.
“The outside of the building is starting to take shape,” he said. “They’ve torn up the parking lot to have that re-done. All that work is more visible, and the people in the area are very excited about the work that is being done on the complex.”
The Richland County Central Court will relocate from 1400 Huger St. to the new Decker Center, which will house eight courtrooms. The largest of the courtrooms will be reserved for traffic court, which could serve several hundred people a day.
The Sheriff’s Department will relocate about 100 employees to a substation in the center, and a community room will be available for neighborhood events.
The Decker Center also will include environmentally friendly elements, such as a system for capturing rain water from the roof to water plantings.
As construction for the Decker Center rolls along, the Coroner’s Office also is preparing for a big move. Major renovations at its new facility on Shakespeare Road are scheduled for completion in March. The 19,000-square-foot building will provide more office space, a training room, evidence storage and a state-of-the-art evidence lab.
“This new facility will be the premier coroner’s office in the Southeast, if not the Country,” said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. “I am so humbled to be a part of this renovation for the County and a part of the future of the Richland County Coroner’s Office.”
The Coroner’s Office currently shares building space with the Sheriff’s Department in a 5,000-square-foot structure on Pineview Drive and uses storage space at various County buildings. The new facility will allow all the Coroner’s Office materials to be stored under one roof. The staff is expected to move in by mid-March.
Residents visiting the Richland County Judicial Center at 1701 Main St. are already noticing new carpet and tiling. The re-flooring is completed in the courtrooms, judges’ chambers and several other offices. The few remaining areas are expected to be complete in March.
“Work on this project has been slow due to all work occurring at night so that normal operations could continue,” Fosnight said. “However the finished product will help create a new feel to the facility.”
In May 2015, the Lower Richland community celebrated the grand opening of Pinewood Lake Park at 1151 Old Garners Ferry Road.
The first phase of this project, funded by $1.4 million in hospitality tax dollars, included walking trails, gardens, picnic shelters and more at the scenic park abutting Pinewood Lake. A large restroom facility is under construction on the east side of the lake.
“There were some setbacks because of the flood,” said Councilman Norman Jackson, District 11. “But the County is working diligently to have those problems fixed so the citizens can go back to their normal fishing and other activities.”
Jackson said County Council in March will consider a budget amendment of $4.5 million to complete the second phase of the project this year. Plans for future amenities at the park include a fishing dock, event center and amphitheater.
“The additional improvements at Pinewood Lake Park will allow residents from all parts of the County to enjoy this facility even more,” Jackson said.
Fosnight said although improvements vary at the various facilities across the County, the goal is the same for each project.
“Richland County continues to improve facilities, which as a result improves the quality and efficiency of the services offered by the departments,” he said.