Developers continue to flock to land near the Crosstown Expressway, building mixed-use projects and changing the landscape of this part of downtown Charleston.
At least nine mixed-use developments are in the works in the area bounded by Spring, King, Huger and East Bay streets. Construction has begun on seven of those projects, and more are in the planning stages, according to eight developers.
The Midtown project on King Street, between Spring and Woolfe streets, was the impetus for much of this growth, developers said. Completed in 2015, the project, led by Clement, Crawford & Thornhill Inc., was the culmination of former Mayor Joe Riley’s longtime vision to bookend Charleston Place on Lower King Street with another hotel on Upper King.
Midtown includes two Hyatt hotels with 300 rooms, 30,000 square feet of retail and office space, and 400 parking spaces. It abuts Greystar’s 200-unit Elan Midtown apartments. Combined, the projects nearly fill the Spring Street block between King and Meeting streets.
One block over, the first phase of Courier Square is well underway on land bounded by Line, Meeting and Columbus streets and The Post and Courier’s building. The newspaper’s parent company, Evening Post Industries, plans to build a large-scale project over time on the 12 acres it owns near the Crosstown.
Phase I of Courier Square includes 226 apartments, 19,000 square feet of retail space and 70,000 square feet of office space. Greystar will occupy the entire office area, relocating its headquarters from The People’s Building on Broad Street, said Todd Wigfield, Greystar’s senior managing director for East Coast construction development.
The office, retail and residential space will wrap around the project’s parking garage. The apartments, called The Guild, are expected to open early next year.
Some developers said the scale, location and price points of these projects spurred their own decisions to invest nearby. Other real estate executives said they researched markets across the country and chose Charleston because of the region’s job, wage and population growth.
New York City-based Spandrel Development Partners and Virginia Beach, Va.-based Armada Hoffler Properties broke ground recently on two student housing developments on the Charleston peninsula — at 595 King St. and 530 Meeting St. — in response to the region’s lack of housing units, particularly for students.
“We really like the dynamics in the market north of Calhoun Street,” said Eric Smith, chief investment officer for Armada Hoffler. “With limited land that’s mostly surrounded by water, the growth was clearly going that direction, and it was going that direction so quickly that we weren’t really a first mover.”
The King Street project will be a six-story building with 258 beds, 12,000 square feet of retail and an underground parking garage. The Meeting Street development will be a five-story building with 361 beds and ground-floor parking. Work has started on both projects.
“That market north of Calhoun has largely been shown to now draw the students ... and it has all the other amenities you would want to support projects like this, including retail and dining options and entertainment options,” Smith said. “We think Charleston is a very dynamic marketplace — not just the peninsula, but the greater Charleston market in general. There’s a great growth story there.”
Spandrel Development Partners has also broken ground on a third development in the area, working with Aspen Heights Partners and Northwestern Mutual on 511 Meeting St. That project, next to the end of Interstate 26 in the Eastside neighborhood, sits across the street from Spandrel’s 530 Meeting St. student housing project.
Emanuel Neuman, founding principal of Spandrel, said he expects millennials, empty-nesters and new residents to move into 511 Meeting, which will have 221 apartment units. The firm analyzed more than 280 U.S. cities to determine where to invest.
“We found that Charleston was a unique opportunity,” Neuman said.
Huger Street building boom
Parts of Meeting and Huger streets near the base of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge are also changing as development rises nearby.
Federal Capital Partners, a Maryland-based private investment firm that worked on the Cigar Factory redevelopment, is now partnering with Raleigh-based Kane Realty Corp. to bring new construction to the peninsula.
Federal Capital bought the 72-unit East Central Lofts a few years ago with plans to expand on the 3.5-acre site.
Directly next to the existing lofts, a mixed-use project is about halfway complete. It will add 274 apartment units to the footprint — for a combined 346 apartment units — and about 16,000 square feet of retail space, said Matt Valentini, director of development at Federal Capital Partners. The new construction and existing East Central Lofts are now called Meeting Street Lofts.
New units will be rented at market rates, with 15% set aside for workforce housing, which is rented to residents making less than 80% of the area’s $23,100 median income.
Valentini said he expects the entire project will attract “anyone who wants to live and work in a more walkable neighborhood.” It is set to open in summer 2018.
“We think what’s happening north on the peninsula is very exciting,” Valentini said of the Upper King Street and Upper Peninsula neighborhoods. “There’s a new restaurant hub, a new economic hub, and we’d like to offer an opportunity for people to live on the peninsula while working there.”
“Over the past 10 years, Charleston has evolved from a tourist destination to one of the Southeast’s economic powerhouses. ... And while jobs are bringing people to the market, downtown is still the selling point for the region,” White Point Partners founder Ryan Hanks said in a news release. “We’re excited to be starting work on Huger Street and expanding the peninsula luxury living options to accommodate the growth.”
Two other developments are underway further down Huger Street. The shell of a three-story office building stands about a block away at 229 Huger St., with a sign in front that dubs it the “Anniston Building.” County property records say the owner is Eastside Living LLC, and a real estate listing for the project says it will have a little over 11,000 square feet with 3,675 square feet per floor and on-site parking.
And Chase Development President Ben Chase said he plans to build a four- or five-story mixed-use building at 245 Huger St., near Meeting Street, with apartments, retail spaces, parking spots and a rooftop terrace.
Chase said the more flexible zoning on the Upper Peninsula, which allows for taller and denser properties, spurred his decision to move forward with drawing plans for the site.
“The Upper Peninsula provides for a lot more diversity, and perhaps more affordability, than paying the higher rental rates south of Calhoun,” Chase said.
This story originally appeared in the Nov. 13, 2017, print edition of the Charleston Regional Business Journal.