The housing bubble had long ago burst, so developer Steven Tully of Community Development Corp. was unsure what to expect when he and partner Paul Trask forged ahead with plans to develop land they owned in Beaufort's Northwest Quadrant neighborhood earlier this year.
Bounded by Bladen, Duke, Prince and Adventure streets in the heart of historic Beaufort, the two-acre parcel had sat mostly vacant for more than five years as Tully and Trask tried unsuccessfully to sell it before finally deciding to move forward with MidTown Square in May.
If built to capacity, the project would include up to 16 single-family homes and six units in which space will be used for both living and work.
Tully was uncertain how the development would fare, given the economy, but he has been pleasantly surprised.
"(The homes) are selling faster than we can actually built them," Tully said. "We have four homes that are under construction ... all but one of those has been sold and we've already sold five other lots. It's pretty remarkable when you consider the economy. I wish I had more lots."
The custom homes start at about $259,000, according to an online brochure by Allen Patterson Residential, MidTown Square's builder. They are close to the road with parking in the rear, accessible by an alley, according to designs.
MidTown Square was the first plan approved under the city's new Bladen Street redevelopment district zoning code -- a form-based code that focuses more on what structures look like and less on how they are used. It will allow developers to bypass city review boards, which some preservationists have opposed.
The development also stands to benefit from about $1.3 million in streetscape improvements the city has planned for the area, which are expected to begin later this year. Two federal Community Development Block Grants paid for the improvements.
"Once that work is done, it's going to look pretty darn good," Tully said. "I certainly didn't expect it to go as well as it has ... then I figured out why, and it's because people want to live in a real downtown. They want that new urban lifestyle. They don't want to live in a community like Beaufort, they want to live in Beaufort."
Part of the property had a community garden that Tully and Trask allowed nearby residents to use for growing vegetables, but it was displaced when construction on MidTown began and hasn't found a new home yet, Tully said.
Some of the plants in the garden have been relocated to empty lots behind Beaufort Elementary School while residents and preservationists search for a permanent home for the garden.