Forest Acres is Growing, But This is Just the Beginning

For many years, Forest Acres has been building a foundation for a city unlike any other in the Midlands.

While only roughly five square miles, Forest Acres has long been renowned as a retail hub. It’s a popular shopping destination for many in the Midlands, attracting customers to retail locations in Trenholm Plaza, Cardinal Crossing, and many other boutiques, restaurants, bakeries, specialty gyms, and stores along Forest Drive.

According to the city’s leadership, they’re just getting started.

More than ten new businesses have opened or announced they will open in Forest Acres over the past few months. In addition, national brands see the city as an area of growth and opportunity.

“To add more than ten new businesses within a few months this year really highlights our economic strengths,” City of Forest Acres Mayor Frank Brunson said. “Others are seeing what we’ve always known; we’re the best kept secret in the Midlands.”

Recently, a Charleston-based restaurant group chose Forest Acres as the first city to expand its brand into the Midlands. Poogan’s Southern Kitchen opened in August in Cardinal Crossing, near the new Molto Vino wine bar.

Crumbl Cookies is also building in Cardinal Crossing and hoping to open this fall, joining Nothing Bundt Cakes, Aly and Eloise Bakeshop, and Kudzu Bakery and Market as popular dessert stops right along Forest Drive. Kudzu is another Charleston brand that expanded into the Midlands when it opened a Forest Acres location.

HomeGoods, Sephora, and Bath and Body Works are all currently under construction at nearby Trenholm Plaza.

The data makes it easy to understand why businesses and shoppers are heading to Forest Acres.

The city has retail demand of $2.2 billion, which expects to grow by $200 million in the next five years. Forest Acres boasts a median household income of more than $80,000, one of the highest in the region.

The retail trade area has a population of 230,000 shoppers who are seeking a unique experience; they have found it in Forest Acres.

People drive from all over the region to shop in the city. Trader Joe’s remains one of Forest Acres’ largest draws. Specialty stores like Forest Acres Needlepoint, celebrating its first anniversary this month, have customers from as far away as Charleston, Charlotte, and Raleigh.

Voted Best Neighborhood in the Free Times’ 2022 Best of Columbia competition, visitors to Forest Acres will notice how easy it is to shop, dine, and play.

And more retail and dining options could be on the horizon if the redevelopment of the Richland Mall moves forward. The property is currently under contract and the developers remain in the due diligence period.

Reimagining the outdated mall to create a thriving destination at the city’s gateway remains a top priority for the city council.

Tree-lined streets create ideal places to live, walk, and enjoy life for 10,000 residents. Forest Acres is also home to some of the best public schools in the Midlands. There are plenty of parks for visitors and residents, with an additional park planned near Forest Lake.

The new outdoor space will feature a pedestrian bridge, a food truck parking area, a green space, and 100 parking spaces. Another key feature will be a memorial to the city’s fallen police officers, a first for Forest Acres.

“Forest Acres continues to evolve,” City of Forest Acres Councilmember Thomas Andrews said. “We’re known to have the best parks and public schools in the Midlands. Our dining and shopping offerings have always been strong, and we anticipate continued growth in this sector. We want to deliver what our citizens want – exciting options within our city limits, so you really don’t want to leave home.”

While Forest Acres has become a haven for business and residents, city leaders recognized they’re working with a limited area. Forest Acres does not have room to grow outwards, so the city is selective with its development strategy.

“We’ve always had a very strong foundation within our business community,” says Mayor Brunson. “Over the last decades, we have been selective about what businesses come to our city and that continues to serve us well. Now, we are focused on sustainable growth and redevelopment to continue to push Forest Acres forward.”

As Forest Acres looks to the future, they hope to build on the foundation. City leaders are excited to see business growth developing even more interest in the area.

“We believe the future of the city is one we can all be proud of,” added Councilman Andrews.

For someone looking to put down roots in the Midlands, Forest Acres is a great place to call home. Low crime rates and accessibility to just about everything make the city an excellent choice for families. And for those just visiting, it’s a perfect place to have a great meal, shop, meet a neighbor, and enjoy time outdoors.