Methodical developer, builder partner pick up pace in once sluggish, now trendy South Windermere neighborhood

A 1950s era house at 17 Jamaica Drive was completely remodeled by developer-builder partners C.J. Dempsey and Jon Goldfarb. Leroy Burnell/ 10/9/2013.

A few years back, C.J. Dempsey started developing properties in the Charleston area after moving from the Chicago area.

With the country in a housing downturn, Dempsey took the deliberate approach. He bankrolled a residence here, refurbished a dwelling there. He even came out with a catchy company name: OHAY, which stands for One House a Year.

Now, with the economy picking up and the developer strengthening his relationship with Jon Goldfarb’s Riverland Builders and real estate agency Avalon Co. to rebuild and sell homes in the South Windermere neighborhood west of the Ashley, Dempsey is on something of a roll.

He’s up to three, count ’em, three houses in 2013. That’s kept him busy as well as made him consider changing the company name, although THAY (for Three Houses a Year) is out of the running, he quips.

The fully remodeled homes this year include 17 Jamaica Drive, which sold this summer; 11 Sheridan, on the market for $525,000; and 108 Chadwick Drive, a four bedroom, 2,555-square-foot house on one level for sale for $775,000. The houses are listed through the business partners’ Avalon Co.

The developer and builder enjoy restyling the decades-old homes in South Windermere. Located in West Ashley not far across the Ashley River Bridge, the neighborhood sports dozens of smaller to mid-sized houses built as early as the 1950s. The community benefits from good-sized lots, solid construction and proximate location to Charleston and James Island. The neighborhood entrance runs along the edge of South Windermere shopping plaza. A neighborhood public school, St. Andrews Elementary, is being rebuilt.

Dempsey and Goldfarb stuck with the one house a year approach during the market downturn. But the one or two homes they renewed were enough to excite the home-buying populace.

“What we did early on, it gave people confidence,” Goldfarb says.

The business partners typically buy their properties before setting out to revitalize them. They control costs but by no means cut corners.

A case in point involves 108 Chadwick Drive. The house, built in 1955, had one owner. While stylish at the time, 108 Chadwick seemed out of step, with small rooms and dated fixtures and furnishings.

The partners’ crew, including noted landscape designer Heather Foley, set to work. They trimmed limbs and brush to highlight backyard oak trees overlooking tranquil marsh while sprucing up the lawn.

“The house is really all about the view,” Dempsey says.

Goldfarb and company added two extra rooms on a wing of the house, crafting a master suite complete with soaking tub and extra-large shower in the bathroom.

They reinvigorated the den, modernizing the look while upgrading built-in bookshelves and fireplace.

In what had been a small living room and kitchen, they knocked down walls to open up the entire area while installing an extra-long support beam. They enlarged the living quarters while redesigning the kitchen with stainless steel appliances and an island. As a result of the structural redo, the culinary center now offers open views of the oaks and manicured yard through the living room window.

Just last week, the developer and builder painted the brick exterior a beige color, in part to mask the new red brick of the wing addition that didn’t match the older brick on the existing section of the house.

The developer and builder took similar approaches with 17 Jamaica Drive and 11 Sheridan. For one, they added or significantly enlarged the second floor. The 2,100-square-foot Sheridan house now includes two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. They also installed a back deck while adding a doubled-strength wooden fence.

While Dempsey favors modern perks and appliances inside, once in awhile, he’s talked out of it. Goldfarb, he says, convinced him to keep a wall nook in the Sheridan house that’s reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s. In days gone by, the slightly protruding base in a hallway would have held the telephone, phone book and a set of keys or like baubles.

Dempsey says the real estate market’s rebound has played a role in the developer and home builder hastening the renovation pace. But he doesn’t see expanding the business to design an entire small neighborhood, for instance.

He and Goldfarb intend to stick with South Windermere and nearby Old Windermere for the revitalization projects.

“You get the old look of the neighborhood, “Dempsey says, “with completely new insides.”

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or