Just across the river from downtown Beaufort, new apartments could soon rise from a prime waterfront property dotted by large oak trees.
The project proposed by Atlanta-based MidCity Real Estate Partners would include seven apartment buildings, some of which could also include retail and office space on the 19-acre Lady’s Island property known as Whitehall.
The plans are only the latest in a boom of multifamily development in northern Beaufort County as developers continue to try to meet the demand created by young people putting off homeownership and an older generation transitioning to maintenance-free living.
In Port Royal, a waterfront community of high-end apartments called Parc at Broad River is doing well enough for the same developer to plan hundreds more units next door on Savannah Highway.
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“We know the market is there, because (Parc at Broad River) has a waiting list,” said David English, an architect and co-developer of both projects. “And they’re getting tremendous traffic, but they don’t have units to lease.”
Another couple of hundred units are planned in Beaufort near the hospital and doctor’s offices to attract those professionals.
The building boom means more units are on the way for those who want the flexibility or need to rent.
But it might not necessarily mean an abundance of affordable options as prices reflect prime locations, development costs and a hot market.
To meet the nationwide demand for apartment living, an average of 328,000 units need to be built each year until 2030, a recent industry report said. That’s 4.6 million more apartments needed during the next 12 years.
In South Carolina, 63,000 units are needed over the same period, according to We Are Apartments, a research initiative of the National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartments Association.
Young people putting off marriage and family life are driving the renting demographic. The other growing group of tenants are empty-nesters transitioning from larger homes.
Those 55-and-older are the fastest growing group of renters, looking for a sense of community and fewer responsibilities, said Paula Munger, director of industry research and analysis at the National Apartment Association.
Developers of the proposed Port Royal apartment project in Shell Point believe a large portion of prospective renters will be retirees. Because of this, building plans include elevators.
Whitehall development plans also accommodate an older population, with an independent living facility for “active seniors” included among the apartment buildings on MidCity’s proposal.
The apartment buildings would include 240 one- and two-bedroom units. Prices aren’t set but will likely be at the highest end of the local market, a reflection of the prime location near downtown and waterfront access, MidCity president Kirk Demetrops said.
He pointed to the large percentage of out-of-town members at nearby exclusive Secession Golf Club, those who might have homes elsewhere and visit Beaufort part of the year and empty-nesters as potential tenants.
A village feel at Whitehall will offer walkable access to potential restaurants, park space, a community dock and to downtown and its shops and marina, Demetrops said. Construction is slated to begin during the second quarter of next year.
A northern Beaufort County planning committee will consider a zoning application from the developers at Beaufort City Hall on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
The plans are similar to a mixed-use project with luxury apartments the developers completed in Alpharetta, Ga., offering a well-heeled demographic an area to live and shop withing a short stroll.
“You have luxury rentals in great locations offering flexibility to people that want it,” Demetrops said.
Luxury not within reach for many
In addition to an aging and part-time population, Beaufort County’s renters include hospitality workers, Marines and sailors, teachers, nurses and public safety workers seeking lower-price renting.
High-end apartments price out many, with high land costs and a shortage of construction laborers among the factors, Munger said.
“It’s really hard to make it work at a certain rent level,” said Munger, who was speaking generally without data from Beaufort County.
Parc at Broad River units start at about $1,100 for one bedroom to $1,700 for a three bedroom, according to apartments.com. English, the developer, said the neighboring proposal would be nicer than the first.
Units at the Preserve at Port Royal, by comparison, start at $975 for one-bedroom layouts. And one bedroom at Ashton Pointe on Robert Smalls Parkway starts at about $1,000.
Some more local projects are aiming to fill the need for affordable living.
Sixty apartments targeting working professionals have been pitched at Ribaut Road and Pine Court in Beaufort. Prices aren’t set, but developer Geoff Grout said in January the target was for the one- and two-bedroom units to average about 850 square feet and $1,000 per month.
Another 48 units of two-bedroom and three-bedroom workforce housing are underway on Ribaut Road across from Naval Heritage Park.
Beaufort Housing Authority plans eight, one-bedroom apartments at Ribaut and North Street rented for no more than $900 per month and four similar apartments on nearby Duke Street.
“New supply will also need to match requirements for all income levels, not just the top tier of the market,” the May 2017 report from the National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartments Association said. “Anything short of this will simply drive up rents faster, far exceeding expected household income growth and requiring more doubling up and house sharing.”