Where should my brother live in Columbia, South Carolina?
May 20, 2007 9:50 PM   Subscribe

My brother is moving to Columbia, South Carolina for school at USC and would really appreciate your input on a safe place to live and enjoy the city for at least 4 years.

My brother is in mid 20s, hip, down to earth, conservative yet progressive minded, metrosexual, doctoral candidate-to-be at USC. Ok, that sounded like I am pimping my brother, but he is trying to find information about the city so he can find a safe, clean, place to live where he can quietly study, read and do his research. I would really appreciate any suggestions on nice places to hangout as well(cafe, etc), a clean bar for grad students, restaurants for good home cooked meal, perhaps, or anything. He is open to new experiences coming from a big city and hope to get familiar with the city a bit before he moves down there. We'd also appreciate any recommendations on health clubs, hobbie organizations, sports, etc.

He's been told that he can get a one bedroom house for as little as 300 bucks but I am afraid that could be in a shady part of town...(although this could likely be a huge generalization).

Thank you in advance for all your input.
posted by icollectpurses to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
$300 for a house will put you in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. I pay less than $800 for my 3 bedroom house, but it's about 10 miles from downtown. There's tons of rentals near USC that are probably a little cheaper. Will he have car? You can live without one here if you need to, but it will suck hard. Public transportation sort of stinks, and they seem to be cutting the budget more and more every year. If he does have a car, there are several pretty nice apartment complexes down Bentley Drive in the 29210 area code and it really not that far from campus by car.

The Vista is the area downtown that will have bars he'll like. There tends to be an older crowd out there. I'm not a huge drinker, so I can't really recommend any specific one. Five Points is the area with all the bars for the underage college kids.

However, Five Points has my favorite restaurant in town, Yesterday's. It's casual, home cooked style food and if he gets a meal plan at USC, he can use it there, as well as several other local restaurants. He must try the cheese fries there at least once.

Holy moly, this is pretty long now. If you have any other specific questions, I'll try to help. There a few other Mefites here too, but not many.
posted by chiababe at 10:57 PM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: He will have a card, I forgot to mention. He's a doctoral candidate so he'll prolly stay away from the typical 'college bar' scene...like a lounge sort of places are what he's looking for I think.

As for housing, he's looking for somewhere around $500 a month....just don't know if that means his fairly nice luxury sedan will get broken into more than he'd like.
posted by icollectpurses at 11:24 PM on May 20, 2007

If he doesn't mind about 15 minutes commute, there are lots of housing options right outside Columbia in Irmo. I'd feel safer in the sketch part of Irmo than the sketch part of Columbia, to be honest.
posted by Glitter Ninja at 4:01 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: While in law school I lived in a one bedroom shack in a neighborhood called Olympia, and my rent was $325 a month. Olympia is fun and laid back and within walking distance of the football stadium (and biking distance of the law school) but it is not the safest neighborhood in town.

There are lots of places downtown that fit what he is looking for, and he won't have to move out to lame ass Irmo. I would recommend a house in the Rosewood neighborhood, which has a lot of students, but also families, and is fairly safe, depending upon which part of it he lives in. There are also nice houses in the Elmwood Park/Earlewood/Cottontown neighborhoods, with less students and more families, but the houses can be more expensive.

If he is a hipster, then his options are limited here, as college life revolves around the frat scene. There is a cafe in five points called Adriana's or something that some guy I knew in high school hung out at, and he was pretty hip I guess. The bar scene in the vista is older, but consists mostly of yuppies. Thankfully, Columbia is fairly hipster free. Your brother may want to try Charleston though on the weekends. It is lousy with them.

As for health clubs, as a graduate student at USC he will have access to the beautiful Strom Thurmond Health and Fitness Center (also referred to as the Strom Thurmond Sit-up and Push-up Center), which is right downtown and state of the art. Lots of nice equipment, racquetball courts, clean, convenient, and all the pick up basketball games you could want. I miss it.

I can't really recommend any great hobby organizations unless I know what he is into, but I will tell you some things to check out: Rushes is a great local chain for awesome cheeseburgers. 90.5 is the local college radio station, but it is a mixed bag. I recommend 94.3 the Country Legends. Country music from the 60's, 70's and 80's. It is transcendent. Riverfront park is great. Trails that go right by the river. I can bike to it from my house and always love to go there. The dam at the end is one of my favorite spots in the city. Congaree National Forest is also incredible, but more of a day trip than an afternoon one. We have been getting some good bands lately at Headliners and the Art Garage.

Columbia is a great place to live if you like the outdoors (the weather is beautiful 90% of the time, but it is the hottest place on earth, so watch out), nice people, little traffic, and like to have down home unpretentious fun (for example, Friday night I went to a 'save the pigs' party at the fairgrounds. It had booths full of people who had cooked up chili, gumbo, chicken, banana pudding, you name it. You paid $15 per couple to get in and all the food was free, but you had to pay $3 each for the only beer available, bud light. $3 a beer is expensive in SC. They had a band of 50 year olds playing beach music, and people stood around the stage and shagged (which is a dance here, not a britishism for doing it) and sat with their children. If this sounds like something your brother would like, then he can find it here easily). If your brother is looking for a cosmopolitan hipster scene, he may have to look a little harder. I can't say definitively that it doesn't exist though, because I haven't gone looking for it. It is a great place to live though, but it depends, like most things, on what you make of it.
posted by ND¢ at 7:09 AM on May 21, 2007

I would say the Vista, though I hear it's getting pretty pricey. Irmo is pretty safe (though has been getting less safe over the past 10 years), but it is hard-core suburbia and a commute (more than 15 min). I would really not advise Irmo in this case, though I am a fan generally.

Columbia is pretty darn cheap, but $300 for a house sounds unrealistic given what you're looking for. However there are apartment/house listings all over campus and he can probably get a really nice apartment (maybe 2B) with pool nearish USC for something around $600 IIRC. Obviously I would imagine he could get a 1B for even less.

A good bet is to ask professors and current students where they live. What will he be studying? If he's going to be spending a lot of time on campus/in a lab/in the library, versus a lot of time on his own at home/in lounges, that might make a difference in terms of where to live, how far, etc.
posted by ml98tu at 7:13 AM on May 21, 2007

West Columbia and Olympia are both fairly cheap and safe, South of Rosewood cheap and slightly less safe in areas. I dunno about 300 a month without roommates, but all my artists friends live there and seem to do okay.

Tell him to invest in a bike, Columbia is compact enough that during the nice weather (300 days or so a year) he can get by with only that. There's also several really good running clubs in town and plenty of races around town. The beach and the mountains are only two hours away, so there's plenty of opportunities for hiking, boating, etc.

As far as night life Columbia there's all kinds. If he's a lounge kinda guy he'll want to check out The Blue Martini, Rust and Hush. Maybe Goatfeathers and The Speakeasy in Five Points. And I believe you're required by law to go to the Art Bar at least once.

Food: Hunter-Gatherer is right off the Horseshoe (USC's main quad) and has excellent food and brew their own beer. Locals may gripe about it, but there are at least a dozen great taquerias in West Columbia. Use the pick-up truck rule in determining good home cooked restaurants and barbecue: five or more is a winner. Barbecue places here usually have a buffet with veggies, fried chicken casseroles and other home style food in addition to the holy smoked pig. Asking opinions on barbecue is like asking opinions on religion around here, be careful.

The university is a whole topic into itself, so I won't get into that here, but there's all kinds of groups and clubs and plenty of opportunities to get out of the library.

While I won't go as far as ND¢ in proclaiming the greatness of the city, I will admit it is a fun place to live and work.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:22 AM on May 21, 2007

I have a friend who lives across the street from me and is vacating her apt (1 bedroom) which runs about $495 a month plus a fraction of utilities. It is on Senate st a block north of the BA building and a block south of Gervais (a major thoroughfare besides blossom st.)

I pay $550 a month plus around 100 in utilities to also live a block north of the BA building in an apartment managed by the Fowler company (a great rental agency, they're located in Shandon on King st., right behind the Young's food mart on Devine St.)
posted by ijoyner at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all!
posted by icollectpurses at 4:04 PM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: I've come a little late to the party, however, I'll add my two cents for posterity.

I would not recommend living in the suburbs of Columbia. The commute would definitely be more than 15 minutes and his soul would suffer there.

I can't speak to the best places to live, however, I lived on Pickens just north of Gervais for a couple years and found it agreeable. I don't feel like the University area is particularly dangerous if you're relatively sensible. I also understand that the Vista is now adding some residential development as well.

I heartily second Speakeasy, Hunter-Gatherer, and Yesterdays. Art Bar is one of the few hipster gathering places in the city. As for cultural offerings, the Nickelodeon is a fantastic indie film house. If he's into live theatre, Trustus is the place to go.

Get a public library card as well. It was voted the best library in the country in 2001.

Columbia isn't a bad place to live, though he will probably be ready to leave after four years.
posted by Dalton at 4:31 PM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: In grad school I lived in the Cornell Arms, which was close to the horseshoe but kinda grungy (and not getting good ratings atm, I guess). Pretty cheap though. Nice and quiet, at least when I lived there.

I heartily recommend Yesterday's along with the others as a nice place to eat, and if the Blue Cactus is still around, that's a great place to learn to love Korean food! ;)

I loved grad school at USC. Great people from all over, and a nice laid back but studious atmosphere. Good luck, I hope he enjoys it.
posted by gemmy at 7:25 PM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, Dalton and Gemmy!
posted by icollectpurses at 3:51 PM on May 23, 2007

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