By Wendy Nilsen Pollitzer
Steve Tully, Allen Patterson and John Trask III have hit the nail on the head. And, yes, that pun was intended. Developers Tully and Trask envisioned affordable homes with a focus on a walking community on land situated between Adventure and Bladen streets, 2 acres they purchased in 2006 in an area known as the Northwest Quadrant. They met with third generation builder, Allen Patterson and initiated a plan to make efficient use of the dirt, located one block from the Beaufort River and a short distance to all the shops and restaurants downtown.
The sustainable infill project, called Midtown Square, holds 22 lots, 16 residential properties and six flex properties, which can be used as residential or work space on pads facing Bladen Street. The property also features the 1912 offices of Coastal Contractors, and that structure likely will be rehabilitated, Trask said.
It’s what Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers have been looking for downtown, with amenities within walking distance, all public and free. It’s far from the suburban master planned communities with costly regimes and homeowner association-supported extras. And even better, not a tree was cut nor an ounce of asphalt poured to create Midtown Square.
Additionally, what is remarkable about this project is the swiftness of its launch. Steve Tully did in six months what most need 18 months to complete. He diligently and diplomatically collaborated with many parties to secure a base plan for his idea. He met with city officials and board members, the Office of Civic Investment, BJWSA, SCDOT, SCE&G, Beaufort County Open Land Trust and the Lawrence Group to secure the initiative in a cost-effective and timely manner.
A $1.3 million streetscape plan for Duke, Prince, Bladen and Adventure streets has been approved. Utilities are supported, and the neighborhood is excited about the improvement. What happened in this situation is unprecedented. In pre-hard economic times, this redevelopment project would go through a mountain of hoops and cost the developer thousands of dollars monthly as decisions rested on the tables of review boards. But that’s what Tully recognized from the get-go and wanted to avoid. And everyone agreed: let’s work together to get a good idea off the ground, and let’s do it affordably in these times when we all need a boost. Simple enough. And, now we have a viable product that many are eager to see flourish.
Jon Verity, chairman of the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission, hailed the project as an example of public-private partnerships that are the goal of the Redevelopment Commission.
“The MidTown Square project will make a huge difference in the look, feel and texture of a big part of interior Beaufort,” Verity said.
“This type of infill is what we are seeking as we move Beaufort into its fourth century — encouraging the filling in of open and vacant spaces in the city to create new homes and new jobs. It’s happening because private investors are responding to the investment made by the city to improve Beaufort,” he said.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling also supports Midtown Square. “We have been talking about public-private partnerships, and we have been working to create a more walkable, liveable and financially sustainable Beaufort where residents can enjoy all that Beaufort offers. This project is exactly what we are talking about,” Mayor Keyserling said.
“In the past, the City has used funds to improve streetscapes, drainage and sidewalks and then adjacent property owners put signs on their properties asking higher prices because of the public investment. This time, the public investment is being used by land owners as a way to improve their property rather than seeking a windfall. It is a win-win for all and sets a precedent for the future,” Keyserling said.
It’s a concept the City of Charleston has pulled off beautifully. They’ve allowed modern, 21st Century architecture to blend with 18th Century, ox-blood and tabby covered residential homes. There are roof-top restaurants overlooking the well-known market area and historic Exchange Building. They’ve somehow managed to incorporate new and maintain old and have done so respectfully.
Now, Beaufort is not Charleston. And Midtown Square is not some out-of-the-box, crazy concept. It’s simply the real deal, an urban neighborhood consisting of quality-built homes, priced affordably for the young professional, new family or retired couple moving to our beloved city.
Thanks to the efforts of Historic Beaufort Foundation, editors of “This Old House” magazine named Beaufort’s Northwest Quadrant one of the nation’s 51 Best Old House Neighborhoods in 2010.
The area, once a thriving black middle-class neighborhood just blocks off the Beaufort River, fell into disrepair in the 1970s. It became one of Beaufort’s blighted and neglected areas until renovations started in earnest in the mid-1990s.
“This is a great opportunity to live in one of the prettiest waterfront cities in the South,” the magazine wrote. “The quadrant’s downtown location puts it within walking distance of restaurants and shops.”
Tully agreed that the property’s location is key. “Even before we started our marketing, we had reservations for two homes and a contract for a custom home in MidTown Square,” he said. “There’s a great deal of interest in people who want to live in the heart of a small town, where there’s so much to do without getting in a car to drive somewhere.”
According to Edward Dukes, the broker-in-charge at Lowcountry Real Estate, the firm marketing the property, “Midtown Square enjoys an excellent location. The city tennis courts, the marina and boat landing, library and the waterfront park are all within walking distance. People want amenities, and the best part about Midtown Square is that they are already here. Our town is the amenity. We are very excited about the response we have received on the project from our clients and other Realtors.”
Homes sizes range from 900-square-foot expandable cottages, called “Evolution” homes, to 3,200-square-foot in-town residences with in-law suites over a two-car garage. Midtown’s conceptuals feature modern designs with historic and classic details and are built to the newest storm codes. They are also built to Gold or Silver LEED energy certification standards. Rear alley access combined with on-street parking is another plus. Small manageable garden yards promoting low water consumption and a neighborly feel, all in an established historic district, is a win-win for the consumer, the developer and the environment.
The project is the first approved under the city’s new Bladen Street Redevelopment District zoning code — a form-based code that emphasizes how a structure fits into a neighborhood rather than how it will be used. The form-based code work, led by the Redevelopment Commission and the City’s Office of Civic Investment, is being done in conjunction with Port Royal and Beaufort County.
Beaufort’s Office of Civic Investment along with its Planning and Public Works departments came together to keep this project moving forward, Tully said. “The level of communication and cooperation, and the desire by the city to help make things happen in this area, really impressed us,” he said.
Community Development Corporation of Beaufort, LLC cut the ribbon and Allen Patterson Residential started framing the first home on May 12, which is currently two weeks ahead of schedule. All homes will be built on a 90-120 day build cycle, which is pleasing to neighbors and homebuyers.
Lowcountry Real Estate brought the first four homebuyers and is actively working with more. Custom homes in Midtown Square will start around $260,000 and pre-designed homes will cost less, said builder Allen Patterson.
Midtown Square is the right product in the right place at the right time. It will bring a vitality to a neglected part of town and will be a model for public/private partnerships, streetscape improvements and form-based codes coming to Beaufort.
To learn more about MidTown Square, visit www.lowcountryrealestate.com or www.themidtownsquare.com.
Community Development Corporation of Beaufort, LLC cut the ribbon and Allen Patterson Residential started framing the first home on May 12th, which is currently two weeks ahead of the build cycle schedule. All homes will be built on a 90-120 day build cycle, which is pleasing to neighbors and homebuyers.
Lowcountry Real Estate brought the first 4 homebuyers and is actively working with more. Custom homes in Midtown Square will start around $260,000 and pre-designed homes will cost less, said builder Allen Patterson.
Midtown Square is the right product in the right place at the right time. It will bring a vitality to a neglected part of town and will be a model for public/private partnerships, streetscape improvements and form based codes coming to Beaufort.