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Historic Beaufort County Jail to become residential development

Jason Thomas //September 12, 2023//

Historic Beaufort County Jail to become residential development

Jason Thomas //September 12, 2023//

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Constructed on the site of an earlier jail, the present jail was built in 1939 and expanded in 1961, but has sat vacant for decades in the Northwest Quadrant. (Photo/Provided)

The former Beaufort County Jail is being transformed into a condominium development.

Columbia-based developer Wheeler & Wheeler Properties is developing Justice Place, the conversion of the jail at 1409 King St., into nine individual residential condominiums, according to a news release.

Construction on Justice Place has begun, and units are expected to be available for lease in the summer of 2024.

Garvin Design Group of Columbia, which has won numerous awards across the state for its preservation efforts, is the architect for the jail, and notable features of the jail have been retained and incorporated into the design, the release stated. For example, the visiting area has been converted into a breakfast area in one of the units, hallways have been preserved, and portions of old jail bars have been used as accents.

“The conversion of the former county jail into residential condominiums is a great example of adaptive reuse,” said Jeff Wheeler, a partner in Wheeler & Wheeler, in the release. “It allows us to take a deteriorating property and adapt it for another use while preserving the historic character of the structure, a structure that might well have been torn down and lost.”

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Total investment in the project is $3 million, according to Wheeler.

The adaptive reuse project will consist of six one-bedroom, one-bath units ranging in size from 605 to 735 square feet and three two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath units ranging from 900 to 1,050 square feet. Five units will be on the first floor and four on the second floor. Parking for the residents will be on site.

Hill Construction of Columbia is the general contractor. Hill, Wheeler & Wheeler, and Garvin also teamed up for the renovation of the Fannie McCants Elementary School into 11 townhomes in the historic Earlewood neighborhood in Columbia, according to the release.

Development brings history back to life

Constructed on the site of an earlier jail, the present jail was built in 1939 and expanded in 1961, according to the release. A small addition was added to the rear of the building around 1975. The original 1939 jail was designed by Beaufort architect Jules D. Levin and is a well-developed example of Art Deco/Moderne architecture.

However, the building has sat vacant and deteriorating for several decades in the historic Northwest Quadrant, the release stated.

Preserving the historic character of the jail, while at the same time meeting modern housing standards, was a challenge achieved through a collaboration among the South Carolina Department of History and Archives, the National Park Service and Garvin Design Group, the release stated. Garvin created a design that is functional and architecturally consistent with the area. The jail is on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing building to the Beaufort Historic District.

Located near the city center and shopping, Justice Place is expected to appeal to urban professionals, the release stated. Following approval of the jail project, Wheeler and Wheeler began discussions with the county through the County Attorney, Brittany Ward, about the remaining portion of that block. “The negotiations have been collaborative and proactive with a goal of developing affordable housing. Both the City and the County have been supportive of this project,” Wheeler said.

Developers envision a residential community

Justice Place is now a part of Justice Square, a proposed two-block residential community envisioned by Wheeler & Wheeler in Beaufort’s historic Northwest Quadrant, according to the release.

“The Justice Square development will meet a range of housing needs and is envisioned as a catalyst to spur further revitalization in the heart of that historic area,” Wheeler said.

In addition to Justice Place, the proposed urban infill development of Justice Square may include, according to the release:

  • The Cottages at Justice Square: 12 to 14 single-family homes on the remainder of the block bounded by King, Monson, Prince, and Wilmington streets where the jail is. Priced to attract both first-time home buyers and empty nesters, The Cottages at Justice Square are being designed by Allison Ramsey Architects of Beaufort and built by Hill Construction. They will be marketed by Charter Realty of Beaufort. The project will include the relocation of the county DHEC office and vital records storage facility at 1407 King St.
  • Justice Park: A proposed development of workforce homes on the adjacent block bounded by King, Wilmington, Prince, and Harrington streets. The design concept for Justice Park is being prepared by Beaufort architects Cooter Ramsey and Jeremiah Smith of Allison Ramsey Architects. The two-block Justice Square residential community will bring new life to an underserved area.

“The Beaufort Housing Study identified four critical elements which Justice Square will meet: affordable rental housing, for sale housing to moderate income households, residential development that will appeal to millennials and young professionals, and adaptive reuse of existing vacant structures for residential purposes,” said Zack Wheeler, also a partner in Wheeler & Wheeler Properties, in the release.