During the real estate boom, apartments were converted to condominiums and sold. Now, condo plans are switching to apartments.
Two such developments involving a total of 240 apartments on Charleston's Upper Meeting Street could be under construction within months following action by city regulators this week.
Those apartments, both slated for properties that are now empty lots, could attract hundreds of new residents to a downtown commercial area aching for redevelopment.
"These housing developments will help put people on the sidewalks, giving more life and vitality to the Upper Meeting Street area," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said Thursday. "Additionally, these developments are taking vacant property and giving it purpose as housing downtown."
"The additional foot traffic will also add opportunity for the existing shops and businesses," he said.
One plan that received its first city architectural approval would put four-story apartment buildings on the east side of Meeting Street between Mary and Reid streets. The 40-apartment development also includes two buildings on Nassau Street, which would be designed to look more like neighboring residences.
"I'm actually really happy to see this go up there," said Dave Brubaugh, a Nassau Street resident who spoke at the city's Board of Architectural Review meeting Wednesday.
The 400 Meeting St. development was originally proposed in 2004, as a five-story building with 59 condos. The apartment plan calls for fewer units and a smaller building, with a parking lot between the apartments and existing homes on Nassau Street.
"As condos, it's was much denser, and it was taller," said Eddie Bello, who is working on the project for McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture.
While neighboring residents won't have a five-story building adjacent to their back yards, as the condo plan had called for, Nassau Street resident Tim Taylor worried about the impact of rental units.
"I'm just concerned about the whole neighborhood becoming a rental, dormitory situation," he said. "It is a residential neighborhood."
The apartments are allowed by city zoning, so the plan requires only approval related to the appearance. The review board granted preliminary approval for the large Meeting Street structures and conditional approval for the smaller buildings on Nassau Street. The developers hope to start construction by January, Bello said.
While the 400 Meeting apartment plan is new, a Greystar Real Estate Partners development two blocks away is much larger. Greystar is preparing to build a 200-unit apartment building, with additional commercial space, at a site on Meeting and Spring streets where condos were previously planned.
That development received final approval from the BAR on Wednesday.
Robert Mitchell represents the East Side neighborhood on City Council, and his district includes parts of the Upper Meeting/Upper King area. He said the new development will improve housing opportunities and boost the city's tax base, which will help keep tax rates down for current residents.
"I think it's going to be a good thing," he said. "I hope that some of the people who have moved off the peninsula will move back."