Construction in Charleston’s future — no crystal ball needed
Charleston is a city of history, a place that has seen many changes throughout the years. It continues to evolve as time passes; take as evidence the numerous construction projects and cranes currently dotting the city’s landscape. With Charleston now being recognized as a strong second-tier market for outside investors, a number of new projects being planned around the city are bringing changes up-and-down the Charleston peninsula.
One of the most notable projects under construction is the mixed-use WestEdge development, which is located on the western edge of the peninsula along the Ashley River, on Lockwood Drive, bounded by Spring Street, Fishburne Street and Hagood Avenue. With an initial project cost of $280 million and which has grown to approximately $300 million, the WestEdge project is comprised of separate building projects that include three new buildings and a new road named WestEdge Street.
The first step in this 60-acre project is the development of the building known as 99 West Edge, which has since been renamed “Caroline.” Gateway Facility Services and South City Partners, both Atlanta-based, are the primary partners in developing this property.
Caroline consists of six stories over commercial space on Fishburne and five stories over commercial space along WestEdge Street, located behind the Charleston City Police Department headquarters and across from Riley Park. This project offers 237 apartment units and includes 1,002 parking spaces, with around 300 being allocated for residential tenants and 325 spaces being leased by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for its tenants. The rates for one- and two-bedroom units are set at $1,605 and $2,275 per month and the penthouse runs at about $4,400 a month. Caroline also includes a dozen commercial spaces, of which four have been leased to date. These tenants include Fitness Center, Barre South, a Japanese restaurant called Hokkaido, a baked goods retailer called BKeDSHop and Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.
The second building in the WestEdge development project is 10 WestEdge, which is to be a nine-story building that includes 350 apartments, retail stores and a Publix grocery store located under a five-level, 870-space parking garage, of which 70 of these parking spaces are being set aside for the neighboring Holiday Inn Express Hotel and about 400 spaces have been reserved for the third building in the project, 22 WestEdge.
That third building, 22 WestEdge, is being developed by the Horizon Project Foundation (HPF), a non-profit formed by the city of Charleston and MUSC. It will serve as a research and commercial structure that will be a beneficial resource for the Medical. MUSC has agreed to move its bioinformatics department into the building and to spend $16.6 million over the next decade to rent approximately 41,000 square feet. The contractor is B.L. Harbert International, LLC, a private construction firm based out of Birmingham, Alabama. CEO of HPF, Michael Maher, spoke about the purpose of this project, stating that their hope to, “create economic stimulation while reinforcing the community and more specifically the medical community.”
At the other end of Lockwood Blvd, The Beach Company, a well known local real estate outfit, is changing the landscape of the lower peninsula as it redevelops and replaces the former 14-story Sergeant Jasper building at the west end of Broad Street. This new mixed-use residential and commercial project, initially announced in 2013, has faced varied zoning issues and court fights since its inception. However, the Board of Architectural Review has awarded approval for a replacement project. The Jasper, the name of the replacing structure, will include 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail spaces, 75,000 square feet of office space and 222 residential units along Barre Street. The architectural firm that has been involved in this project is Chicago-based Antunovich Associates.
Another project of the Beach Company, located adjacent to the former Sgt. Jasper site, is on St. Mary’s field at Broad Street and Lockwood Blvd. This is a plan to develop 20 single-family attached town homes and a waterfront park. Each of the three-story town homes will be 2,400 square feet and will include ground floor parking, with individual elevators and rooftop terraces that offer a view of the Ashley River. These buildings also feature individual formal front entries, limestone exteriors and large, expansive window areas that keep with design principles of historic townhomes on the peninsula.
“The townhomes and park at St. Mary’s Field will complete the streetscape along this prime location on Broad Street, while complementing the adjoining historic neighborhood and providing a new public space for all to enjoy,” said Dan Doyle, senior vice president at The Beach Company. “We’ve assembled a world-class team to design this project and look forward to presenting plans before the BAR for its preliminary review in the coming months.”
Although the area’s zoning rules allow for a higher-density project up to 34 units, the Beach Company decided to reduce the unit count in an effort to increase open space and improve ongoing infrastructure enhancements in the immediate area. This means more than 75 percent of the property will remain open space or contain previous surfaces. The Board of Architectural Review approved the Beach Company’s application for conceptual approval on April 25 and the start date for this project can be expected summer 2020, with a target completion date of late 2021.
Another newly announced project that will have a significant impact on the east end of the peninsula is a Hilton time share project called Liberty Place Charleston, which will be located at 475 East Bay Street, at the corner of East Bay and Calhoun Streets. Developed by Hilton Grand Vacations, Inc. (HGV), based in Orlando, Florida, along with Strand Capital Group LLC, based in North Myrtle Beach, this project is HGV and Strand’s first joint venture as development partners and will be HGV’s first property in Charleston. Investing $10 million in the project, HGV plans to offer 100 timeshare units, which will include one-bedroom studios and one- and two bedroom suites, a new café, street-front retail space, a pedestrian walkway from East Bay to Alexander Street and two new houses. This project is expected to be finished by the second quarter of 2020.
Continuing around the peninsula to upper Meeting Street is an approximate $100 million dollar project called “The Guild,” a new apartment project being developed at 128 Columbus St. Containing 226 units within its eight stories, The Guild provides studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, a rooftop pool and a 650-space parking deck. It will also house the headquarters of Greystar, a Charleston based apartment management company that is the largest apartment operator in the United States. The rates for these apartments range from $2,000 a month to more than $8,000 a month for top-floor penthouses.
The Guild, co-developed by partners Greystar Real Estate and Lincoln Harris, a real estate developer based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the first part of a multiphase development known as Courier Square, a 12-acre development that will be constructed on land owned by Evening Post Industries. The chairman and CEO of Greystar is Bob Faith, who also served as the South Carolina secretary of commerce. The three design and consulting architects involved in this project are LS3P, Robert A.M. Stern Architects and DesignWorks. NAI Charleston, a commercial real estate firm, is responsible for handling retail leases for the property.
Continuing with the housing developments, on the upper portion of the peninsula on Morrison Drive Middle Street Partners, a Charleston-based real estate developer, has teamed up with White Point Partners, a Charlotte-based real estate agency; they are constructing a 275-unit apartment complex named Foundry Point at 107 Brigade St. Split into five buildings, amenities offered will include a coffee bar, game room with a kitchen and a bar, a 1,500 square-foot gym and yoga room, business center, conference room and an outdoor rooftop deck and pool. Federal Capital Partners, a Maryland-based real estate investment company, has also provided funding for this $65 million project expected to be completed in 2019.
The activity doesn’t stop there for Middle Street Partners, who also paid $4.1 million for a 1.3-acre site at 530 Meeting St. with plans to sell this site to Spandrel Development Partners, a New York-based real estate development firm. Previously being the site of a gas station between Lee and Jackson streets, this new structure is slated to hold 114 student apartments.
With this increase in population and activity, it will be crucial for the city of Charleston to continue its efforts to improve the peninsula’s infrastructure. One obstacle Charleston always faces is the issue of flooding in the downtown area, especially on the Crosstown. The city of Charleston is funding a five-phase project with an estimated cost of $54 million including federal and city funding. Phase three is currently under way and projected to be completed in 2020, with Phase four expected to be finished in 2021 and Phase 5 scheduled to be finished in 2022. The city also just paid $3.1 million to contractors in charge of working on the Spring/Fishburne Drainage improvement project that was taking place in March and April.
In conclusion, whether it is “if you build it they will come” or “they are coming so we better build,” Charleston is growing and development projects such as these above are examples of next-level projects, relatively new to the history of Charleston, are being developed by local and national firms to accommodate the demand that growth brings. As the construction cranes compete with the church steeples, new stories are rising from old as the Holy City evolves in ways many citizens could never have envisioned. The impacts of growth on citizens — and the associated livability issues that arise — bring forth questions that will continue to challenge policymakers.