The redevelopment of a former public housing project near the South Carolina Aquarium is entering the backstretch, with new investment activity on a parcel where a hotel is expected to go.
The Charleston affiliate of Rockbridge Capital recently paid $7.5 million for a lot near Calhoun and Concord streets that's next to a parcel it bought for $5.75 million in 2015, according to county land records.
The latest deal with seller Concord Park Associates could clear the way to have the combined properties rezoned for a 180-room hotel, up from the 100 rooms that are already approved.
Rockbridge, an Ohio-based developer and investment firm, did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year, the company's RB Charleston and Concord Park Associates filed plans with the city to have their two neighboring parcels rezoned to allow 180 hotel rooms. Their request was withdrawn twice.
Rockbridge's ownership of both lots now puts the project on more solid footing, said Ross Bowker, a principal with East West Partners and Concord Park Associates.
"I would hesitate to speculate on their motives, but my general sense would be with today’s higher cost of construction and the competitive situation with hotel rooms in Charleston that they came to believe they would have a better chance of success and more flexibility with their hotel development if they controlled the whole site," Bowker said.
"We, of course, entered this deal originally with them to go alongside each other. Their purchasing the other half of the site gives them greater comfort, and that was something we were willing to accommodate," he added.
Rockbridge had not filed a new rezoning request as of Friday.
The hotel property is part of a 10-acre rectangle at Calhoun, Laurens, Concord and Washington streets. It was once the site of the Ansbonborough Fields public housing project, which was damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and torn down in 1992 after pollution from a nearby former coal-tar gasification plant was discovered.
The site was cleaned up for new construction.
The S.C. Aquarium opened across Concord Street in 2000. That same year then-Mayor Joe Riley announced plans for the International African American Museum, which could start construction nearby by late 2018.
City planners recruited developers to revitalize the Ansonborough Fields property more than a decade ago. East West Partners bought about 3.5 acres for $16 million in 2007. It brought in other investors to form Concord Park Associates in 2010.
A hotel has always been part of the master plan, which included a park, an office building, residential condominiums and senior housing.
The hotel on that site would be the last piece of the redevelopment. The offices, park and senior housing have been completed. East West Partners is now working to finish a 76-unit condominium complex that's expected to open later this year.
Rockbridge became a player in the city's lodging industry after buying the 212-room DoubleTree Suites near the City Market about three years ago. It then bought its first lot from Concord Park Associates.