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Large developments press on through troubled economy

Tomorrow's Charleston Today



You may be second-guessing that new patio in these tough economic times, but several major Charleston developments announced in the run-up to the financial wipeout are putting the nail to hammer and pressing forward through the crisis, hoping to be on the board the moment the economic wave regains its strength.

Even those projects that are still moving ahead are approaching the future based on the realities of the economy that we're in. For example, Magnolia, a mixed-use project in the Neck area, is moving along with preliminary work at the site, but the developers aren't using the same numbers for housing and commercial units that they were in 2008.

"Once the infrastructure improvements at Magnolia are completed, we will be able to determine the best development options for the property," says spokesman Jonathan Scott. "We will look at the market conditions at the time to make the best choices."

Yvonne Fortenberry, the city's development director, says projects aren't coming as fast and furious, but the planning department is keeping busy.

"Some people are just kind of slowing down," she says, but "a lot of people are still going through the (permitting) process so they're ready when it turns around."

Below, we've highlighted a few development projects with information on what you can expect to see in the coming months.

Moving Ahead

1) Cigar Factory

Largely vacant for years, the 125-year-old building has been cleaned out on the inside. Now, passerby should begin seeing more substantial rehab on the outside. The stucco additions added on to either side of the entrance will be removed and windows will be replaced. Opening is planned for mid 2010.

Estimates: 66 loft condominiums; 35,000 square feet of retail; 25,000 square feet of office space.

2) Midtown

With it's development permits in-hand, the project is expected to soon take shape between upper Meeting and upper King streets, likley breaking ground within the next year. The $150 million, 4.3-acre project has been touted as the next Charleston Place, possibly serving as a transformative anchor for the neighborhood around it.

Previous estimates: 235 hotel rooms; up to 205 condos; 35,000 sq. ft. retail; 8,000 sq. ft. meeting space.

3) Magnolia

Site preparations continue, including construction of a 1,400-foot bridge that will serve as the new entrance for the 145 acres of developable land. Other road improvements are planned and two towers on the site will soon be relocated. Long-term work includes relocating city facilities.

Previous estimates: 4,400 residential units; 2.5 million sq. ft. of commercial space.

4) Concord Park

Last year, the buyer asked the city to delay the sale until this November. On the site of a housing project decimated by Hurricane Hugo 20 years ago, the project is expected to include a percentage of affordable housing with much of the property preserved for a public park.

Previous estimates: 200 units; 100-room hotel.

Slow and Steady

A) Mendel Rivers Building

The well-positioned site overlooking Marion Square once housed government offices.

The property was sold last year for $15 million to Atlanta real estate mogul John Dewberry. The city has yet to receive any plans for review.

B) 404 King Street

Developers told The Post and Courier in December that lawsuits were delaying work on the 10-story hotel planned for the Marion Square property. It's largely due to complaints by local preservationists regarding the project's height and mass. The site currently houses the closed and dilapidated county library.

C) Post and Courier site

It was nearly two years ago that Evening Post Publishers, the owner of The Post and Courier stuck a foot in the real estate business by announcing that it was considering options for about 12 acres on and around King and Meeting streets north of Spring Street. Since then, the city says no plans have been brought for consideration, except for a general master plan the paper developed prior to the 2007 announcement which suggested mixed development on the site.

D) Promenade

Developers from the Ginn Co. were in town last summer, seeking input on site plans. It eventually led the group to scrap its intended layout, relocating roads and amenities within the development that was formerly home to two landfills and is currently a City Paper neighbor.

Previous estimates: 200 acre site; 1,500 total units; 10,000 seat amphitheatre.

E) Cooper River Bridge Path

Development hinges on making much-needed stormwater repairs, possibly through state or federal grants. City leaders have stressed that affordable housing will be a focus of any site plans.

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