Foundation projects under way

In a wooded patch off Magwood Road, surrounded by blooming wisteria and birds chirping on a sun-splashed spring day, the Humanities Foundation broke ground Monday on a four-acre site where a year from now low-income senior citizens will pick up their keys and open their doors to new, affordable housing units.

The privately and publicly funded 72-unit Grandview Apartments is one of two projects the Charleston-based nonprofit housing developer is undertaking. The other, a 42-unit complex for low-income seniors called Seven Farms Village Apartments on Daniel Island, is set to be completed in November.

Together, the projects are expected to create more than 500 construction jobs over the next year in Charleston.

The $14 million in capital investments represent a breakthrough for the foundation, which hasn't picked up a housing project financed with tax credits in about five years.

"It has been very difficult because of a lot of upheaval in the financial markets," said Tracy Doran, president of the Humanities Foundation, which has built 14 rental communities valued at more than $100 million in the area. "It's been like putting a puzzle together."

The foundation received $3.5 million in Tax Credit Assistance Program funds administered through the State Housing, Finance and Development Authority as part of the federal stimulus package that Congress passed last year. It then leveraged that money to line up more funding from other sources, including the Charleston Home Program, the city Housing Authority, the Lowcountry Housing Trust, Bank of America and real estate investment firms Boston Capital and The Richman Group.

"This is not easy stuff to do, not even in good times," said Ellen Rogers, senior vice president of the community development bank at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "In this economic environment, it is 10 times harder to make it happen. They have really pulled it together."

Mayor Joe Riley commended the foundation as well, saying the nonprofit agency is providing decent, quality housing for one of the fastest-growing populations in the city.

He also noted the apprehension among some Daniel Island residents about the new affordable housing facility. The Humanities Foundation previously built a 72-unit rental project, Seven Farms Apartments, on the island.

"Drive around Daniel Island and see if you can figure out where the affordable housing is," he said. "These are beautiful communities."

The Magwood facility will be three stories on top of a ground-floor parking deck. The smaller Daniel Island facility also will be three floors.

Both buildings will be the foundation's first to go green by using energy-efficient doors, windows, appliances and plumbing fixtures. Connelly Builders of Columbia is the contractor.

Prospective residents must make 50 percent to 60 percent of the area's median income. The lowest one-bedroom apartments for those with 50 percent of the area's median income will rent for $491. The highest two-bedroom unit will go for $724, according to Jay Bernstein, senior asset manager for the Humanities Foundation.

"I look forward to one year from now when the first resident picks up a key and says, 'This is my home,' " said Don Cameron, president and chief executive of the Charleston Housing Authority.