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Boutique hotel, condominiums proposed for iconic former Charleston furniture store

Morris Sokol (copy) (copy)

Morris Sokol Furniture closed in 2015 after 94 years in business. A mix of uses, including a boutique hotel and condominiums, is now proposed for the site at 510 King St. in Charleston. File/Staff 

For nearly a century, bedding and other furnishings once beckoned customers into the former Morris Sokol Furniture showroom in downtown Charleston.

Now a plan is in the works to put people in beds for overnight stays and residential use in the large, vacant building on upper King Street.

Initial plans call for a 50-room boutique hotel, 20 condominiums, street-level retail and structured parking in a rear warehouse, according to Mike Shuler, one of the owners in the partnership that bought the nearly block-long structure in 2016 for $22.5 million. A project name has not been announced.

Work on a first phase of redevelopment could begin by next year in the two- and three-story store that closed in 2015 after 94 years, most of them at that location.

"This is the perfect symbiotic mixed-use project that upper King Street needs," Shuler said. "The idea is to inspire more foot traffic on King Street."

The old furniture store at 510 King St. sits in an accommodations overlay district that allows up to 50 hotel rooms, but Shuler said the owners have to go before the city's zoning board to make sure the project has enough parking and meets other requirements. The meeting is set for Jan. 15.

"It's more of a formality," he said of the request before the appeals board.

Shuler declined to specify the number of parking spaces targeted for the project, but he believes there will be more than enough to meet requirements.

"We control a significant amount of surface parking spaces in the immediate vicinity," he said. "We own property across the street and around the corner."

The developers also own a vacant lot on Reid Street across from the former furniture store, but Shuler said that's a future phase without any immediate plans.

A former storeroom behind the main showroom will be converted to multi-level parking.

"It used to store furniture, and now we will be storing cars there," Shuler said.

The hotel rooms will be layered into the upper floors with the residential units on top.

A corner facade at King and Reid streets will be reworked to show intricate window treatments while merchants will fill the former showroom and the corner building at the street level.

morris.jpg (copy)

Developers are eyeing a mix of uses for the former Morris Sokol Furniture site on King Street in downtown Charleston. The corner building in the foreground with the bricked-in facade is considered historic and the front could be restored to its original, ornate state. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

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Several retailers have expressed interest in the site, but Shuler said he and his partners don't want the mixed-use project to be dictated by commercial users.

"We have been purposely strategically patient in not selecting a retail tenant," he said. "We don't want the tail to wag the dog."

Some of the biggest names in retail and technology have approached the developers for a face on upper King Street, but none has been selected, Shuler said.

"At the end of the day, we will select tenancy for what we think King Street needs and what will be the best fit for the project," he said.

The main facade of the former furniture store will most likely be worked into the final design.

"The intent is to keep the Morris Sokol facade and try to improve it and restore it," Shuler said. "We think it's important for the street. It would be cheaper to tear it down and build something new, but we want to honor the facade in its essence."

He called the project an anchor for upper King Street, and the Appeals Board request is the first of many to come.

"This is sort of a lifetime opportunity starting to come to life," Shuler said.

Almost all of upper King Street has undergone a transformation in recent years. The once, mostly boarded up businesses and vacant lots north of Calhoun Street have been replaced by restaurants, bars, hotels and mid-rise apartment buildings.

A seven-story parking deck with apartments is in the works behind the Sokol site, and other developments are planned nearby.

Morris Sokol Furniture (copy) (copy)

The former Morris Sokol Furniture building on King Street in downtown Charleston closed in 2015 after 94 years of selling housewares, most of those years at that location. File/Leroy Burnell/Staff

While the furniture company operated on the site for years, it wasn't always there during its 94 years in business.

The main showroom at Morris Sokol opened in 1957 when the current building replaced an older structure. The business originally set up shop at 637 King in 1925 before moving to what was its present location in 1931. Prior to 1925, the business operated as a street vendor for a few years.

Former owner Joe Sokol died last year at the age of 86, three years after closing the business to retire.

Before his death, the city named the block where the business was located in honor of the Sokol family.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.

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