Offices may fill down Charleston 'missing tooth'
A downtown Charleston parking lot that's been described as "a missing tooth" along a densely developed stretch in the city's historic district is about to get filled.
A company affiliated with Holder Properties is proposing a four-story office building at 174 Meeting St., a deep, narrow parcel just south of Market Street between a law firm and a bank.
No tenants have committed to the space yet, but the developer, 174 Meeting Street Associates LLC, intends to break ground regardless, as soon as it makes its way through the city's approval process.
"The plan is to push forward," said John Holder, president of Atlanta-based Holder Properties.
Holder said his company hopes to complete the building in 2013.
Plans show about 50,000 square feet of rentable space, most of it on the top three floors above parking. Holder has been working on the 174 Meeting deal since about 2006.
The project is a rarity because builders and lenders have mostly shunned new office developments since the recession and the lingering downturn of the last few years.
In this case, Holder said, the location and demand make all the difference. He noted that the peninsula historically has had the lowest amount of unoccupied offices in the region, and that remains true for top-tier "Class A" space.
The vacancy rate for the downtown market is about 8 percent, while the area's overall average is about 14 percent, according to 2011 year-end figures from Grubb & Ellis|WRS.
Also, the central business district has few vacant parcels of land for competing office projects.
"The banks get Charleston," said Holder.
Holder Properties has been an active investor in the region in recent years, starting with the Ashley Overlook office building off Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.
More recently, the firm was one of the developers of the newly built office complex at 25 Calhoun St., near the S.C. Aquarium. That 63,000-square-foot property, which opened in November, is now more than 90 percent leased.
Jeff Mixson, senior vice president at Holder Properties, said he's pleased with the early response from prospective tenants looking at 174 Meeting. He declined to identify any by name, saying it is too early in the process.
"We do have several law firms talking to us that are interested and some financial firms," he said Monday.
The building will be reviewed before a city zoning board today. Holder Properties is seeking variances from height ordinance and parking requirements.
The Board of Architecture Review will look at the project probably later this month, said Mixson, who attributed the "missing tooth" adage to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.