The plan to fill empty lots with affordable housing near ball fields in Beaufort is progressing ahead of schedule.
The Lafayette Street project is a joint venture between the city and developers Eric Brown, Brad Bowden and Lance Gooding, who have nicknamed themselves "Three Musketeers of Lafayette Street." They provided an update to the city's Redevelopment Commission on Thursday.
The city has agreed to give them almost an acre of land at the corner of Lafayette and Rodgers streets in the Pigeon Point neighborhood, near the Basil Green Complex, in exchange for speedy construction of market-rate homes. The city expects to benefit because it expects to collect property taxes on vacant land it once owned.
"I feel this is a partnership between the city and us, and we feel like everybody is doing their fair share here," Brown said. "It's kind of a guinea-pig process here for everybody."
The contract -- which includes firm deadlines for permitting and construction of the homes -- was signed in December. The closing date for the land transfer is May 25. The first building permit must be applied for by Nov. 25 and the first home completed by May 25, 2014.
The developers want to build six cottages -- two two-bedroom models and four three-bedroom homes. Each will have either a porch or front stoop, and buyers can choose to add garages or carports. The homes are expected to sell for between $169,000 and $185,000, Brown said.
The group is ahead of schedule, according to Brown, who said he hopes to break ground this summer. Depending on the success of pre-sale marketing, the developers intend to build as many of the houses as possible at the same time.
"Nobody wants to live with construction," he said. "I've done that, and it's not easy on anybody. No one wants to hear a house being built next to them, and the easiest thing for us is to try to get them all done."
Complicating matters, however, is planned repaving of Lafayette Street later this year. One solution is for the developers to begin work on the houses and save contractually agreed-upon street and sidewalk improvements until after the paving, Brown said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.