Room to grow

Lindsay Nevin, co-owner of Flyway development and general contracting company, stands in front of the upper Meeting Street building the company restored on peninsular Charleston.

A white cross stands on an overgrown lot beside what was once an oil company's southeastern headquarters on Charleston's upper peninsula, a relic of the tent revivals frequently held on the site years ago.

Starting later this year, the small tract will see the footings for what will be a 40,000-square-foot, three-story building called The Refinery with a 300-seat amphitheater in the back.

That's the plan by Flyway, a development and general contracting firm housed next door in what once was the regional office building for the former Standard Oil Co.

Flyway owners Lindsay Nevin and his business partner, Austin Hipp, recently received approval from Charleston's Commercial Corridor Design Review Board for the new structure on part of the 5 acres they own. They hope to include a restaurant and bar in a one-story addition on the back side of the building in front of the amphitheater.

Already, the first floor of the proposed building, some 10,000 square feet, has been spoken for. Charleston Shoe Co., which has stores in downtown Charleston, wants to move its offices, storage and other uses into the building, Nevin said.

As for the rest of the building, "we have some commitments, but we still have to sort that out before they can be made public," the University of Georgia finance graduate said.

Construction on the new building should start this fall and take 12 to 18 months.

In 2007, Nevin and Hipp set their sights on the old three-story, brick building that formerly housed oil company offices.

"They don't make them like this anymore," Nevin said as he walked around the building recently. "I've always been fascinated by older buildings."

They wanted to use the Meeting Street building for offices and tenant space for their recently created company, but the out-of-town owners weren't in a position to sell seven years ago.

For years, the columned structure with wrap-around porches sat vacant. Standard Oil Co. built it in 1926. The original blueprints now hang in the second-floor lobby of the building. But the fuel firm pulled out of the site many years later.

For a short while it served as Nielsen Electronics, where students learned to work on electronic equipment. It then served briefly as an antiques mall, but Nevin said it's been vacant for the past quarter of a century.

In June 2013, Nevin and his partner finally closed on the building. They moved their offices to the site from above a bar on King Street in downtown Charleston, where they had been since 2008.

The 12,000-square-foot building, with two small single-story structures behind it, are all called 1600 Meeting St. They're actually at 1630 Meeting St. after an address error was discovered, and they now house 19 different businesses, ranging from artists to photographers and clothing designers to interior decorators.

Nevin's fervor for the building is noticeable.

"I'm ecstatic," he said of the old structure. "It's something we have been working on a long time. It has an enormous amount of public and private support. It's very refreshing to have the community behind what we are trying to accomplish here."

One of the two smaller buildings behind it, where Lowcountry Local First's Local Works shop is located, recently received a green roof with freshly planted flowers carpeting its former staid, white top. A second outbuilding housing an interior decorating shop will soon see its rooftop turn green as well, and the main three-story structure could see plants on its flat roof, too, one day.

Flyway is very much into sustainability and hopes to incorporate those ideas into the new project when it breaks ground this fall.

The new structure will incorporate the squares of the 1600 Meeting Street building on its facade, but it will appear as a modern-day building, Nevin said.

"It will have reclaimed industrial metal window frames," he said. "It has been drawn to address the historic nature of this building (1600 Meeting St.) We wanted to pay homage to the historic structure as it is situated on the site."

The northern tip of the acreage, which lies just beyond Magnolia Cemetery in the industrial district, will be used for a second phase of development not yet planned, Nevin said.

As for the site, which is part of the city's 865-acre Upper Peninsula Initiative to steer green growth and smart planning, Nevin said, "We want to maintain the existing integrity of the neighborhood. It's a matter of attracting like-minded businesses and do quality work. There is a lot of diversity here - industrial to small businesses to African-American businesses to churches and residential. There is also a lot of room to grow. We want to be careful how we prepare different projects for the city."

Flyway seeks to identify mixed-use and urban infill-type projects. Half of the work is in house while the rest comes from working with investors, Nevin said. Two offshoots of the business - Flyway Real Estate and Flyway Management - support its activities.

Among its local projects has been the Half Mile North development where Blue Acorn and other companies have set up shop one-half mile north of the Ravenel Bridge off Meeting Street.

But one of its great successes has been the various businesses inside the three-story old oil building.

"That's what's made the project - the tenants," Nevin said.

Each is on a three-year lease, and all spaces are rented out.

"I love it here," said Lindsey Carter, owner of Troubadour upscale clothing designer whose fashions are sold to specialty boutiques and high-end retailer Neiman Marcus for online sales. "We are surrounded by other small business owners, and we feed off each other's creativity. I really love our space."

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.