When Amy and Gerry Healy decided to move from Massachusetts and settle down in Beaufort County, they wanted to do more than simply raise their family.
So they talked with Judy Divine at Lowcountry Real Estate and started looking for a project.
"They told me, 'We want to invest in Beaufort, but we don't want to just buy a piece of property and rent it,' " Divine said. "'We want to do something that will help the community out.' "
At the corner of Bladen and Prince streets, the Healys found the first of what Gerry Healy hopes will be many projects.
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Vacant for years and slowly decaying, the former David Schein Store at 702 Bladen St. will be renovated into two high-end condominium lofts, according to the Healys' plan.
The two-story commercial building was built in 1912 by Annie and David Schein, according to the Historic Beaufort Foundation. In the 1940s, it was Al's Steak House and the Royal Pasta Co. In the 1950s, Carson Rentz purchased it, and it became the Coastal Contractors building until it closed in the mid-2000s.
After repeated attempts to reuse, sell or demolish the building at the edge of their MidTown Square neighborhood, developers Steve Tully and John Trask III sold the building to the foundation for $50,000.
The foundation hired contractor Beekman Webb to stabilize the building. Early estimates were $100,000 for that work. Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz would not give specific amounts, but said the foundation made a small profit from the sale, which will go into the foundation's revolving fund for restoration work.
The Healys bought the building for just less than $150,000. They intend to turn it into two, 1,500-square-foot lofts, which they hope to put on the market by May, Gerry Healy said.
The plan is for loft-style spaces with clean lines and a "Lowcountry twist," Amy Healy said. The Healys will perform basic renovations and let the buyer decide how to finish the space.
"Think of it as a three-dimensional, open, white canvas where someone can do as much or as little as they want to it," Gerry Healy said.
Architect Joel Newman is working on conceptual designs. The facade facing Bladen Street will remain largely the same, as the foundation has an easement that would prevent radical changes.
"I would hate to see anyone change it," Amy Healy said. "It's just a wonderful building, and it is just beautiful."
If this venture goes well, Gerry Healy said the couple hope to work with Beaufort Historic Foundation on other renovations. He said the foundation does a great service, by taking on the risks and costs of stabilization and then letting private owners "get buildings across the finish line."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.