The story below appeared in yesterday’s Charleston Daily Mail. Generation Charleston, the Alliance’s emerging leaders group, has been working to promote downtown housing for four years and is hosting an Urban Living event later this summer.
By Paul Fallon
Daily Mail Staff
That’s if affordable housing can be found. And White, cochairman of Generation Charleston, believes that is something the downtown area lacks.
But he believes one development in the city is a step in the right direction. Bill Turner, co-owner of the Loewenstein Building on Capitol Street, bought the large, historic structure about two years ago with the intentions of creating loft apartments for young, urban professionals.
And the effort is beginning to pay off after the renovations were completed a few months ago. Turner has rented 22 of the 24 apartments in the five-story building that sits in the heart of the city’s Village District.
“Our occupants are people that want to live, work and play downtown,” Turner said.
White agreed, saying the types of people who are attracted to downtown are typically young, about 30, and childless. They’re the ones who want to walk to their favorite haunts around the city.
“These are the people that want the convenience of going to dinner, or going to work and not having to drive to get there,” White said.
Although he has no specific evidence to back up his assumption, White believes that more affordable housing in downtown will be available for those who want to take advantage of the convenience of urban life.
However, Turner, a developer of both commercial and residential property, does not think an abundance of housing in the city will soon become available. He pointed out that developers must be able to find buildings they can turn into apartments at a reasonable price to make them affordable to tenants.
“This is the biggest challenge that needs to be overcome,” he said.
And if developers can vault themselves over that hurdle then the benefits would be great for the city, White said. Affordable downtown housing could encourage professionals who already live in the area to stay in Charleston, and it could also help to attract people from other communities to the city, he said.
Both of these factors would help to increase the population of both the city and county, he said.
White and Turner agree that keeping the housing affordable is the key to attracting tenants. And Turner believes he is doing that.
For example, a single bedroom loft in the Lowenstein Building is $777 per month, Turner said.
“And all the tenant pays is electric,” he said.
However, that does not include cable or Internet service, Turner said.
The two-bedroom units, of which there are eight in the building, run $856 a month. However, only the one-bedroom apartments are currently available, he said.
Turner believes this illustrates that the apartments are affordable because it did not take them long to be rented.
Turner has also made a significant investment into the city. From acquisition of the building to renovations, the project cost about $2 million, Turner said.
The building is old, having been built in 1900, and there are many challenges associated with renovating a historic structure, he said.
Because it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, rules must be observed when renovating the building. For example, renovations must adhere as closely as possible to the original architecture of the building.
“We had to follow the state culture and history rules, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority Rules and city council rules,” Turner said.
Although there were challenges associated with the renovations, Turner said he was pleased with the way the building turned out.
The apartments sport hardwood floors and solid trim. Custom cabinets adorn the kitchens and many of the apartments also have vaulted ceilings.
“They’re really nice,” Turner said.
A walkway also connects the building to the city parking garage located to its rear, so tenants can park and walk into the building through a secure passageway, he said.
Turner began leasing apartments in the building about two months ago.
The remaining two apartments can be leased by calling 304-342-2766 or 304-345-1195.