A sea of brightly painted new apartment buildings is popping up on both sides of a palm tree-lined stretch of Mixson Avenue in North Charleston.
Nearby, some markings in the dirt outline spaces where dozens of townhomes and single-family homes are to be built later this year.
The activity marks the reawakening of the 44-acre development off Durant Avenue, Just like many other new home developments in the region, Mixson is suddenly emerging from recession-induced slumber.
The high-profile infill project is intended to add a downtown-like dose of urban density to the Park Circle area with its concept of narrow alleyways, clusters of multifamily homes and several public meeting spaces. Mixson, along with other residential developments like Oak Terrace Preserve and Garco Park, are expected to add to the city's ongoing efforts to revitalize the area known nowadays for luring young professionals.
Today, Mixson includes 18 stucco homes, a barn, the first wave of new apartment units. It's also seeing more retail businesses, which include a restaurant, a club and Mixson Market, a store and cafe that sells gourmet coffee, craft beer and housewares.
Progress at Mixson is also encouraging news to many merchants in the neighborhood, including those amid the sea of shops and restaurants on Montague Avenue.
Dena Davis, a Park Circle area resident, recently opened gift shop the Pink Crocodile in part due to the area's foot traffic.
"It's a great thing," Davis said about Mixson. "It brings more people here to shop and to eat out and Mixson itself is just precious. I like the idea of eating, living, working, working out and shopping where you live."
The improving local economy has sped up development, but Mixson is smaller than initially planned years ago.
"It went for a few years of head scratching and asking what are we going to do and then it really picked up steam as the economy picked up the first of this year," said Harvey Wadsworth, vice president of development and construction for Atlanta-based Jamestown Properties, the developer.
Mixson has been tweaked from initial plans announced in 2005, changes in part to respond to the economic conditions, officials have said.
The group that built the I'On neighborhood in Mount Pleasant bought the former military housing site in 2005 for $3.8 million and bulldozed the 352 blighted John C. Calhoun Homes site. Initial plans called for I'On Group to construct as many as 950 homes.
The Mixson development later changed ownership. Jamestown Properties, which was an early partner in the deal, bought out the mortgage in 2010.
The firm said that year that it would retool the development plan to mirror the then-lethargic economic conditions. That meant downsizing the concept to roughly 650 residences.
"The lot sizes grew more than the initial phase," Wadsworth said. "We will do it in phases and will try to keep this dense population and make it a walkable community."
The project is roaring back to life as the region's home sales market has been strengthening and with big-name employers such as Boeing Co. and software firm Benefitfocus Inc. recently announcing plans to add thousands of jobs to the local payrolls.
The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors recently reported that more than 11,801 residences have changed hands at a median price of $206,000 through November. That's a 22 percent gain in transaction volume and an 8 percent increase in the median price.
The strong sales have cut into the supply of homes for sale. The Realtors group reported 5,744 homes were listed at the end of November. That's down more than 10 percent compared to the same month in 2012 and one of the lowest levels since the pre-recession boom in mid-2006, according to data. That's drawing developers off the sidelines.
"There is actually a shortage of product, especially in this area," Wadsworth said. "There is a lot of job creation but not a lot of development in Park Circle."
The first building of The Flats at Mixson apartment community opened recently. All 10 buildings in the 268-unit development are planned to be completed by the spring, officials said. The rents are between $860 and $1,365 a month,
The multifamily concept is intended to add a mixture of demographics to the planned community to focus on walkability and a sense of urban living.
This year is planned to include construction of roughly 80 single-family and townhomes, the first such construction since the community's initial 18 homes were completed in 2010.
Wadsworth said the plan was always to give would-be residents a choice of housing options, from rentals to single-family homes aimed at buyers.
"This is to have different income levels, and a very diverse product that appeals to a more diverse population, but we started this concept during the recession," he said. "That said, the layout may have changed but the concept of different product types, and sizes and shapes has always been part of the Mixson plan."
Officials say it is too early to price all the homes to be constructed next year, but Jamestown anticipates that single-family homes will start in the low- to mid-$300,000 range.
Mixson is also promoting its social aspect, which includes community events and open spaces for weddings and other events. The community is also hoping to attract more people from neighboring areas, lured by its taqueria Basico and the adjourning Mixson Bath & Racquet Club, a members-only space that includes a saltwater pool, lounge and fitness areas.
"A lot of our marketing is we want everybody to come out and enjoy what we have going on," Wadsworth said. "Yes, they are Mixson amenities, but we want the greater Park Circle community to engage with Mixson development as well."
Mixson's social vibe was a key reason Josh Allison, 28, recently relocated from James Island to the Flats' apartment complex.
"We moved because of the fact it was a new apartment complex and they were expressing the close community they bring. Me and my wife were really drawn to that," he said.
On the rebound
Mixson is just one development planned to grow density in and around Park Circle.
Another big project underway is the city-funded Oak Terrace Preserve subdivision near Academic Magnet High School. Garco Park is another development for the area, but construction has not started yet.
Local developer The Beach Co. plans several hundred apartments, in addition to commercial space on the 23-acre former asbestos plant that sits near the eastern end of the East Montague commercial strip.
Such housing projects are lauded by local officials like North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
Summey speaks about the Mixson development both as a city leader and a property owner. He and his wife, Deborah, bought a one-bedroom unit on Summey Street - it's named for them - for $180,118 in 2008 and have rented the 576-square-foot apartment out ever since.
Summey said that the progress in the Mixson development is "great news" and demonstrates "success" in accommodating young professionals who want to live, work and play in the area. Summey said the Flats apartments will offer a downtown component that could be replicated.
"It was forward-thinking on their part, and I would not be surprised to see other developments to follow this idea concept," he said.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or twitter.com/tyrichardsonPC.
Local artist David Boatwright (far right) puts the finishing touches on a mural in the Flats at Mixson.×
Harvey Wadsworth of Jamestown Properties points out single-family homes built before the recent recession in the Mixson neighborhood of North Charleston.×
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