Midtown moves ahead

Removing the backs of buildings along this section of King Street, but saving the facades, is being discussed in the ongoing transformation of upper King Street. This view is south of Spring Street.

While several plans for hotels and condominiums along Charleston's upper King and Meeting streets have stalled in the past year, the massive development called Midtown is steaming ahead.

"We're not fearful of the (real estate) market," said Reid Freeman, president of Atlanta-based Regent Partners, the lead developer.

On Wednesday, Regent won city approval to demolish two buildings and portions of three more along King Street to make way for Midtown.

The project covers most of a city block, between King, Meeting, Spring and Woolfe streets.

A detailed development plan is still being created, but the concept is a 250-room hotel, new housing and retail space.

"We love the property, and we love the project," Freeman said.

Regent Partners; Integral Urban Investments, of Atlanta; Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners; and Charleston developer Robert Clement, president of CC&T Real Estate Services, bought the 4.3-acre site in August for $17 million.

The properties were previously owned by a different development group, which also included Clement and Cherokee.

The demolitions approved by the Board of Architectural Review would leave standing the original portions of several historic buildings on King Street, including the former Bank of America branch, while demolishing large rear additions on those buildings and the former bank's drive-through.

The BAR also approved plans to demolish two buildings built in the last 60 years, a former restaurant at King and Spring streets and a building at 560 King St.

None of the BAR members present at Wednesday's meeting objected to any of the five demolition requests.

The Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society generally supported the requests but suggested changes in a few of the partial demolitions that the BAR did not embrace.

Most of the block where Midtown is planned is already vacant.

Robert Gurley of the Preservation Society described Midtown as "an exciting project."

He said some of the demolition work, such as tearing down 560 King St., would create an opportunity to improve the historic buildings next door.

Freeman said the development team expects to return to the BAR in March with more details of the Midtown plan.

Midtown was among several large developments proposed along the city's upper King and Meeting corridor during the height of the real estate boom.

Other plans have been delayed or canceled in the past year.

Charlotte-based Tara Hospitality Corp. shelved plans for a 180- room hotel and condos on Meeting, between Reid and Woolfe streets.

Patrick Properties LLC canceled plans for a 66-room inn it was proposing to build behind the American Theater and Fish restaurant on upper King Street.

And a condo development at 400 Meeting St. was put on hold for a second time in March after its Greenville-based investors decided to wait for the real estate market to improve.