A vacant downtown Charleston corner in what was once a rundown part of the city is now home to a luxury student apartment building.
After nearly two years of construction at a cost of roughly $48 million, developers on Tuesday formally opened the 74-unit, seven-story Hoffler Place at the northwest corner of King and Spring streets.
The brick property includes about 250 beds and 12,000 square feet of retail space within walking distance to the College of Charleston.
Virginia Beach, Va.-based Armada Hoffler Properties co-developed the site with Spandrel Development Partners of New York City.
Rooms won't come cheap in what was originally called Kingston Place. Monthly rental rates at Hoffler Place start at $999 per bed in the five-bedroom units and are $1,899 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the property’s website.
It's 88 percent leased, said Chris Goodall, superintendent of Armada Hoffler Construction.
The ground-floor retail space can be subdivided for four tenants. No leases have been executed.
The structure includes a level of underground parking with 94 spaces. About six to eight parking spaces could be available on the outside of the building off Spring Street for retail workers if a deal is worked out, Goodall said.
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Amenities include a small second-floor pool and sundeck, a common-area kitchenette and a gym.
Dan Hoffler, chairman of Armada Hoffler, called the building "impressive in every respect."
The founder of the 40-year-old company said he fell in love with the city in 1986 after setting up a small satellite office in the area and remained infatuated with the Holy City after his daughter, Kristina, graduated from the College of Charleston in 2003.
"Now, my name is on the building, and I love Charleston even more," Hoffler said to a roaring laugh from the small crowd gathered in the large unfinished retail space at street level.
Hoffler said it's the only building to bear his name in the numerous developments his company has built across the nation over the past four decades.
He joked that when they start naming buildings after a living person, it might be time to check the insurance policy because, "You might be on the way out."
He later added, more seriously, "At a certain point in your career, your legacy becomes extremely important. I can't think of a better place to have mine represented than Charleston."
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Emanuel Neuman, co-founder of Spandrel Development, said he was glad to see the finished product. The project initially started about four years ago, as it wound through the city's strict architectural review process and other approvals.
"It is one of the most beautiful buildings Charleston has seen in the recent past," Neuman said.
City Councilman Robert Mitchell said the project came about in what was once a predominantly African American section of the city because everyone worked together to make it happen.
"This is not the look of the '50s and '60s anymore," he said. "Charleston has changed a lot."
Mayor John Tecklenburg called upper King Street a "no man's land" in the mid-1990s.
"Windows were barricaded, and there was a problem with crime," he said.
After a move was made to redo the streetscape with underground utilities and palmetto trees, the city had to wait on investors to take note.
A few years after the recession a decade ago, construction projects that were put on hold were dusted off the shelf and began to unfold.
The march up King Street had begun, and now Hoffler Place is the cornerstone development of upper King Street, built where a store stood many years ago.
The mayor asked the developer to add some kind of commemoration for the African American community since the development is near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial District.
"This is good for the city," Tecklenburg said of the new development. "It's near the college. It's out of the neighborhoods, and the residents don't have to use cars. It's great to have all the activity on the streets."
The two developers also are involved in the development of Summit Place, a 127-unit student housing project with 361 beds underway on upper Meeting Street.
Hoffler said it will probably be a year before it is completed. The two projects together come to about a $100 million investment.