by Paul Bowers
At a neighborhood meeting in Park Circle Monday night, the Beach Company announced plans to build approximately 217 new apartments on land once occupied by the General Asbestos and Rubber Company (also known as Garco).
"We want this project to feel like an old factory that has been re-purposed as very contemporary apartments," said Kent Johnson, the Beach Company's vice president of development. All of the apartments will be new construction with design work by Dallas-based JHP Architecture, the same company that designed the Boulevard apartments in Mt. Pleasant.
The expected completion date for the apartments, dubbed the Factory at Garco, is not until summer 2016. The Beach Company is still in the process of getting road, building, and sewer plans approved by the City of North Charleston, so Johnson was slim on details Monday night. But he did say rent for the apartments will likely start in the mid-$700s for one-room efficiencies, in the mid-$900s for two-bedroom units, and in the $1700s for three-bedroom units.
Initial plans shown at the meeting included eight apartment buildings, a 3,000-square-foot pool, a sand bocce court, a fitness room, and a dog park. All of the apartments will be new construction on land that currently sits vacant along the eastern side of Chateau Avenue. When completed, it will compete with the existing Flats at Mixson, upscale apartments at the opposite end of Park Circle that start at $940 a month.
"What we're trying to do is not necessarily build this apartment complex for people who have already realized what a great place Park Circle is to live," Johnson said. "What we're trying to do is to build a multi-family complex and be able to say, 'Look, you can live in Park Circle, and you can still work at Blackbaud, you can still work over on Leeds Avenue ... You can work downtown.' We really think we can attract a lot of the young professionals and young families that value the lifestyle that you all enjoy in Park Circle."
Neighbors who attended the meeting were quick to ask about the potential for a grocery store on remaining land at the Garco site. Park Circle sits at the northern end of a food desert, and some residents have complained about the lack of access to fresh produce in the neighborhood.
"The big plan is, if we can get enough people in here, we can get a grocery store," Johnson said, adding that a piece of property near the northern end of the Garco tract has been set aside as a potential grocery store site.
The Beach Company bought the land at a bankruptcy auction in 2003 and has since struggled to develop it, partly due to a down real estate market and partly due to a litany of health and environmental hazards at the site. Johnson said the company has removed 750 tons of material from the property that was contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. The Beach Company has also had to install vapor mitigation barriers to prevent an underground plume of trichloroethylene from contaminating drinking water.
In addition to the apartments, Johnson said Adams Outdoor Advertising and an unnamed luxury lighting company were also planning to build new headquarters on the Garco site.
The most prominent feature of the old Garco site, a brick 1920s-era textile mill between O'Hear and Virginia avenues, will not be a part of the apartment development. The City of North Charleston purchased the building, along with a neighboring expanse of grass and the vacant EMA office building, for $1.5 million in December in an effort to build a new home for its Cultural Arts Department (many of the department's existing office and studio buildings are on Navy Yard property that the city promised to sell to the state in a December 2012 land swap).
According to a city spokesman and a City Council meeting agenda from October 2013, plans for the mill building could include studios and apartments for artists, a 300-seat theater, a gallery for displaying and selling art, and a coffee shop. The city also plans to build a park in the field directly to the north of the mill.
Here's a map showing the location of the Garco site. The apartments are slated to be built between O'Hear and Chateau avenues: