When architect Eric Brown looks at the empty lot at 1403 Lafayette St. in Beaufort, he not only sees future home sites, but a way to improve the neighborhood.
Brown and partners Brad Bowden and Lance Gooding will build homes on an acre of city property as part of a private-public experiment. Beaufort is giving the developers the land to keep costs down, so the savings can be passed on to home buyers.
The developers also plan about $150,000 in street, sidewalk, lighting and other improvements. That includes a park on the corner of Lafayette and Rodgers streets that will be given back to the city. Several live oak trees will be preserved in the park and lighted at night, and a bench, fountain or other feature will be added.
"It will set the whole tone, a different tone for the whole neighborhood," Brown said.
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City Council's agreement, sealed Tuesday with the developers, includes deadlines that will void the contract if missed.
Developers must obtain a $152,000 bond to pay for streetscape improvements that have to be completed within a year. They must also apply for the first building permit within six months and complete the first building within six months of the permit being issued.
A new building is expected about every six months, according to the agreement.
Brown hopes construction will start by mid-spring, but now that the agreement is approved, the conceptual designs must be updated first.
Preliminary plans are for six to seven single-family homes, although one of the buildings might be a duplex. Each home would have two or three bedrooms, be 1,000 to 1,200 square feet and priced between $169,000 and $189,000, Brown said.
That price range is comparable to the sales prices of other homes in the neighborhood, Brown added.
Most of the homes will front Lafayette Street, and one will face Rodgers Street. Preliminary plans include an alley on Lafayette Street where residents can park.
All of the homes will have a stoop or porch facing the street, Brown said, and the designs incorporate elements typical of older Beaufort homes, so the new homes will blend into the neighborhood.
The plan was developed by the city's Redevelopment Commission, which has discussed ways to fill empty lots with subsidized housing.
The Lafayette Street project could pave the way for similar private-public partnerships. When land such as the Lafayette Street plot sits unused, it does not generate property-tax revenue and creates a maintenance expense for the city.
"We like the energy going on in the city, and we want to do our little part to add to it," Brown said. "... As a development team, this gives us confidence because everyone is on the same page conceptually, and it's not always like that."
- City of Beaufort moves forward on development projects, Nov. 13, 2012
- Beaufort, Port Royal trust moving forward with affordable-housing plans, July 30, 2012
- Parking solution could be tied to Lafayette Street project, Dec. 5, 2012
- Carolina Lowcountry Architecture: The Basis for a Distinct Architecture of the Lowcountry