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Iconic Claussen’s building getting new life as boutique apartments

Architecture
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A Five Points landmark will soon begin its third life.

After more than three decades as a Columbia industrial pioneer during its incarnation as a bakery, followed by 30 more years as a hotel, Claussen’s is once again transforming, this time into 29 boutique apartments slated for March occupancy.

“It promotes further vitality in Five Points while retaining a lot of that historic district’s character,” said John Sherrer, director of cultural resources for Historic Columbia. “It speaks to the continued growth of Columbia as a city through the retention and creative rethinking of how its landmark structures can be used.”

Claussen's in Five Points is being renovated into 29 boutique apartments slated for occupancy in March. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop)Claussen’s, a sprawling brick building just across the Greene Street railroad tracks, began its varied existence in 1928 as a bakery, loading fresh bread onto trucks six mornings a week at 4 a.m. Built by George Frederick Claussen, the grandson of a German immigrant who had previously established a steam bakery in Charleston, the bakery helped expand the Claussen family footprint throughout the region.

Within a decade of the Columbia location’s opening, bakeries in Greenville as well as Augusta and Savannah, Ga., employed several hundred workers. In August of 1930, historic documents show, the bakery produced its eight millionth loaf of bread.  

While playing a leading role in Columbia’s industrial development, the almost 27,000-square-foot structure also set architectural precedent with its functional, no-frills interior design and extensive metal framing system necessary for the movement of heavy equipment. Its trapezoidal shape positioned its west elevation to receive and ship goods from the railroad spur.

“The location of Claussen’s on Greene Street marked a transition from the primarily residential University Hill neighborhood into the commercial and to some degree residential Five Points neighborhood,” Sherrer said. “The structure then, much like it is today, served as a gateway into the Five Points neighborhood.”

The bakery ceased operation in 1963, and plans were drafted to covert the building into a hotel in 1986, Sherrer said. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Claussen’s Inn, buoyed by its proximity to the University of South Carolina, welcomed visitors until closing last year.

Now, demolition work is complete on the property, which will be converted into 29 apartments ranging from 350 to 565 square feet. Featuring 21 first-floor studio apartments and eight upstairs lofts, with rents ranging from $1,100 to $1,500, the property aims to have residents moving in by March.

“We knew that this was a great location and people would probably be interested in the building,” said Julie Tuttle, a partner with developer Styx Cos. “It’s a niche project. There’s only 29 units, so it’s not huge, but we felt like this was a seamless approach to the redevelopment.”

Tuttle said in late January that preleasing would begin in the next 30 days.  

The property doesn’t yet have an official name but will retain Claussen’s in some form, Tuttle said. It is not being marketed to students, she said, but is targeted toward a young professional demographic.

Inside the spacious former inn, sunlight streams down from a skylight, highlighting exposed brick walls that have shed their sheetrock skin. A large lobby opens onto a common area that will house a community laundry facility.

The downstairs studios have small patios with shoulder-high brick privacy walls. At the end of the building, an expansive apartment boasts an expansive terrace where Tuttle said a hotel hot tub once resided. The upstairs lofts include spiral staircases to a bedroom complete with a half bath. Each unit is being outfitted with a kitchenette.

Eight upstairs lofts feature spiral staircases leading to a bedroom. All units are being outfitted with kitchenettes. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop)Plans are to provide parking through a combination of ownership fees, leases and easements on surrounding properties.

“It’s a renovation, and that’s much different than anything you build from the ground up,” said Tuttle, whose company has also developed new multifamily projects such as the Town Center at Lake Carolina. “There’s always stuff that pops up. You get into certain things and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is not what we thought was behind this wall’ or ‘This is connected a little bit differently than we anticipated,’ but nothing major. Just regular fun renovation stuff.”  

Tuttle said the developers have worked with old photographs and floor plans to maintain the building’s historic character. Patches of glazed yellow brick and faded bits of turquoise paint hint at a once-vibrant interior.

“That stuff matters,” Tuttle said. “We don’t want to downplay that, and we want to try to bring as much of it back into the public realm as we can.”

Columbia-based architectural firm 1x1 Design is handling the project’s design, while Cohn Construction is the general contractor.

Sherrer said the boutique apartments represent “a nice step in a new chapter” for a building that has played a major role in Columbia history.

“Historic structures, for me, tend to have more character, because they were designed and built in a different time,” Sherrer said. “Whether it’s due to natural disaster or accidents or overt destruction of historic buildings for corporate progress, you often lose a great deal of that fabric. (The apartments are) a good example of restorative use.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 11 print edition of the Columbia Regional Business Report. 

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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