Charleston’s massive Midtown hotel to begin rising soon

Work begins in earnest this month on a long-delayed construction project on Upper King Street that will be anchored by two Hyatt hotel flags.

Crews are preparing to demolish several vacant structures on 2.4 acres at King and Spring streets as the $80 million second half of the Midtown redevelopment project gets rolling. Preliminary test pilings are already underway.

A 10-story dual-branded Hyatt House and Hyatt Place hotel with a combined 304 guest rooms and ground-floor retail space along King will begin taking shape on Aug. 26, said Reid Freeman, president of Atlanta-based Regent Partners, a partner in the long-planned project with CC&T Real Estate Services.

It’s scheduled to be completed in March 2015, said Robert Clement, president of Charleston-based CC&T.

The project will include four new buildings totaling 433,000 square feet. Two existing structures on the site will be saved.

In addition to the 232,000-square-foot hotel, a seven-story parking garage with 400 spaces will rise on an adjacent parcel.

Freeman said the group decided to go with a dual brand of Hyatt because it’s looking to capture different types of guests. The hotels will have separate lobbies. Hyatt Place will be the bigger of the two, with 191 rooms.

Midtown, which originally included the parcel where the 200-unit Elan Midtown apartment complex is nearing completion, will be one of the largest redevelopment projects in downtown Charleston, Clement said.

“For the longest time, King Street has needed this bookend,” he said.

Evening Post Industries, The Post and Courier’s owner, also has plans for that rapidly changing area of the city. It owns about 12 acres at and around the newspaper’s headquarters, about a block north of the Midtown site. The company is proposing to redevelop the property into a mix of new residential and commercial uses, but no plans have been approved.

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130818/PC05/130819494/1011

FIG Owners opening Restaurant on Upper King Street

After months of rumor, speculation, and innuendo, the deal is done and it’s official. Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow, the duo behind the acclaimed FIG, have purchased the vacant Bank of America building at 544 King St. with plans to open a new restaurant in the space by Sept. 1.

The purchase is quite a coup and took months to negotiate. Essentially, they sliced the building right off the edge of the Midtown project. They’ll be independent of the multi-use development, which will include a hotel, shops, and residences, but they will be dependent on the traffic generated by such a place.

“We are so psyched about the concept,” says Lata. “It’s the perfect idea for the perfect property.”

Just what is the concept? Lata’s a little cagey about giving up too much information, but he did confirm that it’s going to be an oyster bar. The vibe will be very high energy and casual. “The general feel is a community restaurant,” he says, explaining that they want to be a place that folks can drop by for a snack, a drink, or a full-blown meal. “It’ll be fun, energetic, and visually striking,” he promises.

To that end, they are working with their longtime collaborator and architect, David Thompson, who recently completed a renovation of FIG and designed The Grocery and Butcher & Bee among others. Lata says they’ve also contracted with Mark Regalbuto ofRenew Urban to help shepherd the renovation of the historic structure, which has been a bank since the middle of the 20th century. He says they’ll also have a graphic design group as part of the team, but just who that will be is still under consideration.

In the meantime, demolition is already underway, and Lata and Nemirow will be traveling to Boston this weekend for research, stopping into places like Neptune Oyster Bar, Island Oyster, and B&G for some inspiration. And over on Meeting Street, the team, which includes Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope and maitre d’ Brooks Reitz, is gearing up for a very busy spring at FIG.

Posted By: Stephanie Barna

Charleston City Paper

The Grocery

Right Across the Street from the Midtown Development

Executive chef and owner Kevin Johnson has opened The Grocery in downtown Charleston.  A veteran of such restaurants as Slightly North of Broad, Anson Restaurant and the Inn at Little Washington, Johnson is serving seasonal, ingredient-inspired cuisine with Mediterranean and Southern American influences. The Grocery’s atmosphere is inspired by the small-town grocery, where the community gathered to keep up with local happenings. The Grocery’s kitchen is stocked with house-made charcuterie and fresh, local fish and seafood, and the restaurant accommodates an in-house canning program to preserve fresh vegetables and fruits for the menu.

The Grocery’s menu encourages the community; diners can sample and share several small or large plates from the continually evolving menu. Menu highlights include fried oysters with deviled egg sauce and bread-and-butter pickles; bouillabaisse of fish, clams, shrimp and squid with grilled bread and aioli; and pork osso buco served with a ragout of Sea Island red peas and cornbread.

The Grocery is located at 4 Cannon St. and is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.thegrocerycharleston.com or call 843-302-8825. Also, follow The Grocery on Facebook or Twitter.

Work Begins again on Midtown Project

The long-slumbering Midtown real estate development in downtown Charleston is stirring back to life.

Construction crews last week tore down the drive-through area at a historic building where King Street meets Cannon Street, signaling the start of renovation work at the former Bank of America branch.

The structure is just one piece of the ambitious Midtown plan, which was approved in 2008 for a 238-room hotel, plus 20,000 square feet of retail space on King Street, and an equal amount of residential and office space above the stores. Charleston-based multifamily giant Greystar is working through contaminated-land issues so it can build 200 apartments on the Meeting Street side of the property.

As for the bank building, it is poised to change hands.

“We have the bank building under contract to a confidential buyer,” said Stuart Coleman of CC&T Real Estate, a local partner in the development. “To prepare for closing we are demolishing the old drive through, which sits in the footprint of what will be future retail and office buildings as part of the overall development.”

He said the former bank “will have a use that compliments the overall hotel development.”

Coleman would not comment, but the speculation is that the building will become home to a new restaurant launched by one of Charleston’s prominent chefs. One name that’s been dropped: Mike Lata of FIG fame. He could not be reach for comment Friday.

Construction on the broader Midtown development is expected to begin in 2012.

Downtown Developments Waiting for Economy to Turn

Monday, May 25, 2009

By Katy Stech

Of The Post and Courier Staff
 Downtown developments waiting for economy to turn
Gill Guerry, The Post and Courier
Four years ago, the buyers of the Millennium Music building across from Marion Square envisioned a new structure on the site with upscale office space and modern ground-level storefronts beneath six floors of residential condominiums.But after waiting for existing leases to expire and for a zoning change, the project was never able off the ground — and thankfully so, according to one of the investors, Philip Woollcott of the PrimeSouth Group.

As it turned out, the demand for residential condos cooled shortly after the $12 million property purchase. Also, the type of retailers that the developers were targeting are now focused on riding out the recession, not opening new stores.

“Fortunately for us, we did not move forward with that project,” said Woollcott, with relief in his voice.

He noted that other developers whose projects got under way shortly before the recession took hold have trudged through poor economic conditions to finish them. As for Woollcott’s group, it is using the slowdown to tinker with its plans, adding more high-end office space and reducing the residential space as it waits for the credit freeze to thaw.

“With what’s going on in this market cycle, (waiting) has come out in our favor,” Woollcott said.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he added. “You want the project to be fundamentally sound.”

The Millennium project is among six major redevelopments valued collectively at more than $400 million that have been proposed for King and Meeting streets at, or north of, Calhoun Street. All have stalled amid the recession.

Most of the developers say they’ve put their plans on hold because of the frozen credit markets, which have made it tougher to borrow money. The unfavorable lending conditions, in turn, have slowed the revitalization of the area, which saw its first jolt of new activity during the last economic boom.

Despite the delays, most developers said they’re confident that their projects will be completed eventually. And Charleston Mayor Joe Riley agreed, saying that even though free-flowing money fueled some of the grand plans, most of the projects are still viable and will help support the peninsula’s long-term growth.

Pulling back

Midtown is one such project. Many expected the ambitious development to do the same for the area north of Calhoun what Charleston Place has done for the area around the City Market over the past two decades.

Proposed by local developer Robert Clement III and an Atlanta investor, Midtown calls for a 235-room luxury hotel and up to 205 condos with ground-level boutiques, shops and restaurants along King, Spring and Meeting streets. But more than a year after a city planning board gave its final approval, the 4.2-acre site remains a mostly empty field punctuated by a few dilapidated, mostly vacant buildings.

Clement said his group had planned to invest a 25 percent equity stake into the estimated $150 million development. But when it came time to finance the rest of the project, the credit atmosphere had changed. As a result, lenders upped the ante, requiring between 35 percent and 40 percent down.

“We were being penalized because of what’s going on nationally in the lending world,” said Clement, who has pushed back Midtown’s groundbreaking until early 2010.

Nearby, a 180-room hotel that was supposed to be built on the site of the Burris Liquor store at Meeting and Reid streets has been scrapped indefinitely. By the middle of last year, local hotel occupancy rates gradually fell to a level that “no longer made the project viable,” explained Charlotte developer Hasmukh Patel.

Right across the street, Savannah architect Patrick Shay wanted to build a five-story project of shops, offices and affordably priced condominiums. But a city board requested he use materials that cost more than what his original “concept could sustain,” he said. Shay is now rethinking the project with no timeline in mind.

Further south on Meeting Street, the aging L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building got its first shot at a second life when Atlanta developer John Dewberry bought it for $15 million in early 2008. He wasn’t specific about his plans for the property, but last summer, the hospitality industry buzzed about a possible luxury hotel at the site.

Today, the building remains vacant. Dewberry, a part-time Charleston resident whose delayed “Miracle Mile” project in downtown Atlanta is facing questions about whether it will ever materialize, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

While some developers have blamed financing issues for their delays, Mike Bennett’s plans to replace the former Charleston County Library building on Marion Square with an eight-story hotel are caught up in a lawsuit filed by preservation groups opposed to the size. Riley estimated the dispute could last another 18 months.

Despite the sluggish economy, Bennett said he’s ready to begin work as soon as the dispute is resolved.

“I’m real determined to build that hotel,” he said.

Keeping a list

On a recent afternoon, Riley stood in the shadow of the vacant library building and talked about how the site could one day host high-school proms and business meetings while driving more foot traffic to the area north of Calhoun. He said similar large-scale development projects proposed nearby fit into the city’s long-term plan.

“What those anchors will obviously do will further advance the continued revitalization of the area,” Riley said.

The city can keep the area clean and beautify the street like it did several years ago by adding bluestone sidewalks and burying utility lines. But when it comes to moving these projects forward, officials can’t do much else, except wait.

“It’s not frustrating at all,” Riley said. “These bigger projects take time.”

Meanwhile, the mayor pointed out that smaller redevelopments of individual buildings are continuing, and businesses are still choosing to open in the vacant storefronts along Upper King.

Chris Price of the PrimeSouth Group said real estate investors, including those he represents, are moving forward on the less lofty projects because they’re quicker to complete, easier to fill with tenants and typically cost less than $10 million.

“The anchor projects are hospitality-oriented or residential-oriented,” Price said. “Forget residential; it’s not going to be funded.”

And while Upper King has seen some notable business closings — Waterworks, Global Awakening, B’zar and Trusted Palate to name a few — others such as Halls Chophouse and SieMatic are moving in.

Price says some operators of the recently shuttered stores were overly optimistic with their sales forecasts, a situation that likely was made worse when consumer spending plummeted.

Riley keeps a list of businesses that have come and gone in the area. In the last year, his tally shows 12 closings and 11 openings, the latest being a jewelry and art store set to open its doors a week from today at 481 King St.

Review board gives Midtown project conceptual approval

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Midtown Project, Downtown Charleston, SC

From The Post & Courier Staff

The city of Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review voted 4-1 Monday to give conceptual approval to the Midtown project, an ambitious $150 million proposal that developers say could mark the entrance to downtown Charleston.After an initial rejection two months ago, developers behind the project returned to the board with more-intricate building details and an internalized loading-dock system, appeasing the concerns of many nearby residents.The 4.3-acre project, which sits between Meeting Street and King Street along Spring Street, calls for 235 luxury hotel rooms, 140 to 205 condos, about 35,000 square feet of retail space and 8,000 square feet of meeting space.

Board member Craig Bennett gave the only dissenting vote.

The development is now up for preliminary approval, which will take into account more of the building details in the project. The project could be part of a transformation of the upper King Street area.

The development group behind the project, Regent Charleston LLC, said it hopes to break ground early next year.

Midtown Design Plan Tweaked

Residents’ concerns led to change in King Street project

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

By Katy Stech
Of The Post and Courier Staff

Midtown design plan tweaked

The loading dock area proposed as part of the Midtown project in the upper King Street area is probably the least glamorous part of the $150 million development, which will include boutique shops, an upscale hotel and condominiums.

But the industrial-looking truck bays, which were set to be built along Spring Street, attracted a lot of attention from nearby residents who were worried about the traffic and trash the docks could generate.

In response, the developer has submitted a new design plan, which is to be reviewed next week by Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review.

The revisions call for an internalized loading dock system for the ground floor of a new building near Spring and Meeting streets.

The new setup is more expensive, but the president of the lead development company said the cost is worth it.

“It’s good because it answers the question of what the citizenry was asking for, and that was to decrease the amount of openings associated with loading docks,” said Reid Freeman of Atlanta-based Regent Partners.

Local developer Robert Clement III partnered with Freeman on the project, along with Integral Urban Investments, also of Atlanta, and Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners.

The new layout does not change the makeup of Midtown, which calls for 235 luxury hotel rooms, 140 to 205 condos, about 35,000 square feet of retail space and 8,000 square feet of meeting space.

The plans for a building to be built on the Meeting Street side of the 4.2-acre property originally showed three industrial-sized truck bays along Spring Street. They now call for just one opening.

The Midtown project consists of two main buildings, separated by an idle rail line that could one day support a commuter train operation.

The new plans also show more commercial space along Spring Street and additional flair along King Street at the hotel’s proposed entrance.

The changes reflect the concerns developers heard at last month’s BAR meeting, where their plans were rejected.

At the meeting, residents complained that the project didn’t go far enough to create an ambitious and striking presence that would make a visual statement to incoming tourists and residents.

Many who spoke out at the meeting said they wanted to avoid a repeat of the loading dock setup at Charleston Place hotel, which faces Hasell Street. Some residents said that the area teems with trucks during the day and is littered with trash. It also has become a smoke-break area for the hotel’s workers, they said.

Name Game

Monday, March 17, 2008

By Katy Stech
The Post and Courier

Here’s a good question: Is the Midtown project a nearly finished residential community in downtown Charleston or a massive mixed-used development on Upper King Street that has yet to take shape?

Confusingly, it’s both. Two downtown Charleston projects go by the name Midtown, which warrants some clarification.

The first residents already have begun moving into the residential Midtown project, which consists of 23 single-family homes, four condos and six duplexes that sell from the high-$400,000 to mid-$750,000 range. The project was developed by local partnership Reavis-Comer Development.

The development also has a small portion of commercial space, but not nearly as much as the more ambitious Midtown project on Upper King, which recently began the city approvals process.

That 4.3-acre project, which is situated between King Street and Meeting Street along Spring Street, calls for 235 luxury hotel rooms, 35,000 square feet of retail space, 8,000 square feet of meeting space and between 140 and 205 condos.

Local developer Robert Clement, who is working on the mixed-use development, said that, luckily, the naming issue hasn’t caused any problems for his project yet.

“I guess someday somebody might (confuse them),” he said.