Buyer’s regrets Neighbor irked by change at condo to student housing

Condominiums were originally envisioned for 400 Meeting St. on the Charleston peninsula. The developer later switched to student apartments, and at least one neighborhood resident is upset by the change.

Anne Brumbaugh purchased her Victorian-style Nassau Street home in 2007 with an eye on being one of several pioneers to help revive the gritty East Side neighborhood peppered with dilapidated and vacant homes.

Brumbaugh said she invested in the area partly on the hope that a proposed luxury mid-rise condominium called 400 Meeting Street would help fuel the renaissance and boost property values.

Now, years later, she has a bit of buyer’s remorse since recently learning that the project is now geared toward college students rather than working professionals.

“There is no way in hell I’d buy this property knowing there would be a dorm nearby,” she said.

Brumbaugh’s home is near the back end of 400 Meeting, which is on 1.17 acres at the southeast corner of Meeting and Reid streets.

The project was initially planned to house a mixed-use development of condos. But it has had a series of hiccups due to higher-than-expected construction costs and the housing meltdown.

The development was originally proposed in 2004 as a five-story building with 59 condos.

The revised 42-unit apartment plan calls for fewer units and a smaller building, with a parking lot between the apartments and nearby homes on Nassau Street.

The project is scheduled to be completed by August. Rents will start at $850 a month per bedroom.

Russ Davis of Davis Property Group, the Greenville-based developer, defended his plans to shift the focus of 400 Meeting to student housing.

“It’s always disappointing when people don’t like what you’re doing,” Davis said Friday.

He pointed to the benefits of providing rental housing to 160 students who otherwise would have to commute by car downtown or depend on “homes in historic neighborhoods owned by absentee landlords who provide no management and allow those properties to fall into decline and destabilize those neighborhoods.”

Davis said college enrollments are rising across the nation, and Charleston is no exception. That is adding to dearth of on-campus housing for what he calculated as about 20,000 students who attend schools in and around Charleston.

“Our next-door neighbor is the college,” he said, referring to the College of Charleston. “It’s the largest underserved market there.”

Brumbaugh has witnessed the changing market first-hand, since more homes in her neighborhood are being renovated for student housing. She now is concerned about the erosion of historical preservation in the neighborhood, which includes a mix of Charleston cottage-style homes and other historic dwellings.

“I am very concerned about property values and what this building does for this neighborhood,” Brumbaugh said. “We have been very careful stewards of the neighborhood.”

Davis said he had to vet his revised design plans publicly before the city’s Board of Architectural Review. Neighbors had the opportunity at that time to raise their concerns, he said.

“I am surprised that they are acting like they didn’t know,” Davis said.

Davis added that the development has been scaled back to lessen its impact on the community. For example, he said, plans for a swimming pool have been nixed.

“At the end of the day, the neighbors really didn’t want it and we really didn’t need it,” Davis said.

He hinted that additional housing for college students could be on the horizon for the peninsula, noting that several developers have been eyeing the area.

“There is a big demand, and that will not change,” he said. “Rather than let it wander and be left to its own, developers will see a need for high-quality housing for students.”

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.