Beaufort Redevelopment Commission eyes old jail for redevelopment

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 3, 2014 

  • In other business

    The Redevelopment Commission:

    • Heard an update on the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot development project. The next step is for developers to create designs and bring them back to city officials, staff and residents for input. A specific date for that meeting has not been determined.
    • Discussed a joint effort with the Beaufort Housing Authority, town of Port Royal and other agencies to hire someone to focus on creating affordable housing opportunities.
    • Heard an update on a plan to build a parking garage on Port Republic Square. The company proposing the project -- Structured Parking Solutions -- has not brought updated plans to city officials, commission chairman Jon Verity said.
    • Discussed progress of the Lafayette Street housing project. Developers have permits for construction and are expected to begin work soon, Verity said.

The vacant, historic Beaufort County Jail and surrounding land on King Street in downtown is being considered for redevelopment into 13 or 14 residences.

The plan is the most recent private-public partnership the city's Redevelopment Commission is tackling as it continues to encourage filling in empty lots and preserving historic structures.

The commission discussed ideas during a meeting Thursday with Wyatt Pringle, principal of Gumbo Limbo, LLC, which bought the property from the county for $511,000 in 2006.

The jail was built in 1938 and has been empty since 1992, according to Beaufort Gazette archives. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A number of rehabilitation projects have been discussed over the years, but none moved forward.

The plan calls for developing the half-block site into three single-family homes, eight duplexes and one building with two or three residences.

Those homes do not include using the jail. The group discussed demolition of an addition to the jail and keeping only the original building. Commission member Mike McNally said the building has, among other issues, asbestos and peeling lead paint.

Pringle said the property was bought as an investment with the intent of developing it. But then the real estate market crashed.

He was contacted by the Redevelopment Commission about three weeks ago, and sat down with McNally and chairman Jon Verity to discuss ideas.

Commission members discussed helping craft an advertisement for a property developer, and if a memorandum of understanding or other legal documents will be needed.

"This is the prototype for other projects in the Northwest Quadrant, so we want to do it right," Verity said.

Commission member Wendy Zara asked about incentives such as tax breaks for renovating the jail. City planner Libby Anderson said there may be some incentives on the state and federal level.

The previous private-public project involved swapping city-owned land with The Baptist Church of Beaufort, which then, with city assistance, retained a developer. Verity said that project on King Street, which includes renovation of the Mulligan Grayson house and construction of three new homes, is coming along well.

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