By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Mechanical cranes, earth movers and crews on safety hooks can be seen from Charleston to Summerville, James Island to Mount Pleasant.

In many cases, they are raising new apartment homes — something that hasn’t been seen around here in abundance since the early to mid 2000s.

As many as 1,700 apartment units are proposed, under construction or being delivered for occupancy in 2013 and 2014, says Wendy Tucker, president of the Charleston Apartment Association.

“The demand for rental housing continues to grow,” Tucker says. She is senior regional manager for Charleston-based Greystar apartment developer and supervisor.

But the rental framing boom is just a tip of the story. “We (the apartment association) represent close to 28,000 units,” Tucker says. “That’s a lot of households.” The total is also up 3,000 units, or about 10 percent, from the same time last year.

The volume jump comes as the cost of living in an apartment inches upward. “Rents continued to increase slightly: 2012 was good year from the rental perspective,” Tucker says. “You won’t see as much (of a boost this year),” she says.

A third leg in the apartment economy, occupancy rates, are in good shape, she says. “Most of the submarkets in the Charleston area enjoy healthy occupancy rates in 93-98 percent range.” That excludes brand new complexes, which tend to take several months to a year to fill up.

New rental construction is spread out around metro Charleston. Two complexes are rising in West Ashley, at Carolina Bay master-planned community and off Bees Ferry Road. A new apartment community is underway in Summerville.

“I think we are seeing growth all over,” Tucker says. “East of the Cooper is very desirable for people.” She also cites Daniel Island, where Riverstone-managed Talison Row opened in the fall.

The Beach Co. is one such venture that’s broadened its apartment reach in the past year or so.

“We actually have three under construction,” says Sharon Spruell, marketing coordinator. They include The Boulevard in Mount Pleasant; Riviera in Seaside Farms, also east of the Cooper; and a new phase in the Canal Side development in Columbia. The developer is also gearing up to build the Parks at Nexton, a new apartment village in MeadWestvaco’s master-planned community in Summerville near Interstate 26 and U.S. Highway 17A.

“I would say that the market is picking up,” Spruell notes, commenting in such a way as to indicate that her response is a vast understatement. “The rental market is just booming right now,” she says.

Spruell citers the home market slide from 2008 to last year as a factor for the apartment growth in 2013. “A lot of people lost their homes are looking for rentals,” she says. Those having trouble getting home financing, “they’re looking too,” she says.

The Beach Co., she says, wants to fill the need “the best way we know how.”

Set to open at the end of this month, The Boulevard “is really the paragon project to the revitalization of Coleman Boulevard,” she says. Apartment homes will include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and decks and porches. Rents will average a reasonably modest $800 a month.

Retail spaces are being added on the ground level, and a “large restaurant” is one of the prospective tenants. The Boulevard also will have Mount Pleasant’s first parking garage, she says.

Meanwhile, Riviera will provide studio and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments as well as two amenities centers with swimming pools in five individual parcels at The Shoppes at Seaside Farms. The community is set to open in the fall. “The cool thing is you can really park the car and get on a bicycle or walk.”

To see more, visit www.liveontheboulevard.com or www.rivieraatseaside.com.

Going forward, Spruell foresees continued apartment construction. “I don’t see a lull at all.”

Tucker, the apartment group president, agrees. “I think sometimes you experience bumps in real estate,” she says. But now, “the rental market is so popular. “Many (people) rent by choice,” she says, notably professionals who travel in their jobs but also people who don’t want to be troubled with maintenance chores.

“The convenience is not cutting your yard,” she says.

For more information, visit the Charleston Apartment Association at www.charlestonapartmentassociation.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.