Developer 303 Associates and its principal, Dick Stewart, have big dreams for three blocks of downtown Beaufort.
"(Beaufort Inn) has done such a good job, we're willing to invest in more," Stewart said.
Two conceptual site plans to fill much of the area on Port Republic between West and Scott streets are being considered by a city advisory board. The developer also is close to a deal to buy most of the block on Port Republic between West and Charles streets from the Trask family as well, according to Courtney Worrell of 303 Associates.
With the demolition of two buildings and reconfiguration of parking, 303 Associates could create more than a dozen residential cottages and buildings.
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The plans are centered around Beaufort Inn, which is owned by 303 Associates.
"We've always had plans to do something on that block that is more in keeping with a downtown master plan," she said.
Stewart said the plans are spurred and made possible because of the contract to buy what is known as the "Trask lot," which includes surface parking and a building that was once a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
At its meeting Wednesday, the city's Historic District Review Board discussed the plans, along with potential renovations of the Anchorage House.
"I'm convinced that someone has dropped a cash bomb on Beaufort," chairman Joel Newman joked afterward.
Newman is serious about developing and filling unused or under-used blocks.
"I'd vote for it right now," he said of one of the plans, which was not voted on. "If it doesn't happen, people are going to continue to not go downtown."
Even with review board and city approval, it's not clear when the plans might go from paper to mortar, Worrell said -- that depends on the economy and real estate market.
Although the Beaufort Inn is at the center of the plans, 303 Associates has not yet decided if it would own, sell or rent what is built on the property, Worrell said.
The board approved a conceptual plan for the block north of Port Republic, where the inn is, but wanted more details about building locations, heights, styles and relation to the area for further review.
Stewart's 303 Associates has been buying historic structures on the block and converting them into lodging. The company owns all but one parcel, which was not part of the plan up for review.
City historic planner Lauren Kelly said seven new buildings would be built on the north and west sides of the block. One of the three existing buildings on those sides would be torn down. A building at the corner would likely contain restaurant and commercial space, and the other structures would be residential, architect Bill Chambers said.
Demolition of the building at 307 West St. would be required and was approved several years ago, Kelly said.
The buildings would be designed to conform to the style of other homes in the vicinity, Chambers said.
The other conceptual plan, for south of Port Republic, directly across the street from the inn, was discussed but not voted on. Worrell said 303 Associates wanted to gather feedback before moving ahead.
That plan would require the demolition of the Coastal Art Supply building at 812 Port Republic St. and turn that land and a parking lot along Scott Street into about 10 residential units.
The site plan shows most of the homes connected in the style of townhouses. Parking would be behind the homes, in the interior of the property.
Board members questioned the buildings' style and mass, along with how well the development would fit in with the surroundings. However, Newman said, "This is the right place for that kind of activity."
Another plan in the works is for the former Piggly Wiggly at 913 Port Republic St. and the Trask parking lot at West and Craven streets. The property was recently listed for $3.4 million.
Worrell said 303 Associates hopes to finalize the purchase of the property by the end of the year. The parking lot would remain, and the Piggly Wiggly would be renovated into a downtown events center.
This summer, another company submitted, then withdrew plans to build a five-story hotel where the Piggly Wiggly is.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
80-room hotel proposed for downtown Beaufort, Aug. 3, 2013
Beaufort Historic District on top 10 Great Neighborhoods list, Oct. 4, 2013
Redevelopment Commission considers land swap property with Baptist Church of Beaufort, Aug. 1, 2013
Beaufort seeking developers' ideas for downtown marina, April 26, 2013