Housing for 'young professionals' proposed for Old Town

dburley@islandpacket.comDecember 4, 2013 

STAFF GRAPHIC

If an area college professor has his way, 12 single-family homes will rise on Old Town Bluffton's Thomas Heyward Street.

Sean Barth, a professor of hospitality management at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, presented his plan to the town's Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday night.

The proposal, he said, is designed to draw young professionals to Old Town.

"This is for people who work or desire to live in downtown Bluffton," Barth said. "I don't think there's a plethora of this type of housing in Bluffton. I want to be the first."

Commission members reacted warmly to the proposal to build on his 1.5-acre lot between May River Road and Bridge Street.

"This is going in a good direction," commissioner Nick Maxim said. "I like it."

The plan calls for 12 cottage-style, 650-square-foot homes tucked behind the oak trees that line the road, Barth said. Each house would have a lofted bedroom, small kitchen, a washer and dryer, and living space.

Barth, who lives in the area, would lease the homes for periods of six months to a year, he said.

Commissioner Chris Epps complimented Barth on plans to use environmentally friendly approaches, including preserving more than a dozen full-grown oaks.

Epps said such practices, which could also include solar power and rain water collection, could "set a precedent of using green design in the historical context (of Old Town)."

Practically speaking, Epps said, such approaches would also cut down on utility payments for tenants, making the houses more affordable.

It was not Barth's first proposal for the property. In May of 2012, he pitched a plan for a 12-room inn on the site.

Some commission members did not think the inn's appearance would mesh with the historic district's architecture.

At Wednesday's meeting, Barth stressed the new proposal aligned with the Old Town aesthetic.

"I've told you all along, I want it to look like Bluffton," he said.

Barth said it was too early in the planning stage to discuss the project's cost.

His next step is to submit an application to the town's Development Review Committee and a formal plan to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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