Beaufort News

Beaufort developer says VRBOs nixed downtown hotel plans. Could condos be coming instead?

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Hilton Head Island is home to thousands of vacation rental homes and hotels to chose from. Here is a sampling of just a few of the super luxurious, eye-catching homes perfect for that family reunion or getting the gang back together for a beach st

Condominiums could replace hotel rooms as part of a development planned to rise from a vacant downtown Beaufort block.

A developer plans 37 apartments or condos as part of a four-story building at Scott and Port Republic streets. The project is called Residences of the Beaufort Inn, a nod to the nearby inn, cottages and event space operated by the same company.

Developer Dick Stewart, of 303 Associates, said the rise of vacation rentals in the Beaufort area led the company to rethink the hotel previously approved for the same site.

“The number of VRBO, short-term rental types in the city have really exploded, and that includes outside the city limits,” Stewart said. “We are less encouraged about a hotel development and more encouraged about residences.”

The project could help bring more people to live and spend money downtown, Stewart said.

The proposed site is currently a parking lot a block off Bay Street, home to many of downtown Beaufort’s shops and restaurants. Directly across Port Republic Street is the Beaufort Inn and its associated cottages, where overnight visitors book stays within walking distance of various downtown amenities.

A bagel shop and real estate office occupy a low building across Scott Street, and the downtown public library is on the next block. The condos would be within sight of the modest Scott Street headquarters of Historic Beaufort Foundation, which helps keep watch over the city’s historic district and weighs in on proposed changes.

Stewart said developers have met twice with Historic Beaufort for feedback on the condo proposal. Developers made changes to the building design after meeting with the organization in May, according to the historic review application.

Three stories of the new building would be visible from the street, with a fourth floor set back.

A ground floor would include 57 parking spaces, with pool and courtyard on the second level. Residences could range from 800 square feet to 2,200 square feet, Stewart said.

Construction could begin by the first quarter of next year. Prices will depend on the market, Stewart said.

The proposal will go before the city’s Historic District Review Board for preliminary approval during a public meeting at City Hall at 2 p.m. Wednesday. If that board approves the plans, developers would then seek final approval from the board and the ability to apply for building permits.

Maxine Lutz, who lives downtown and is the former Historic Beaufort director, said nearby residents would welcome more residences in vacant areas, but not if they led to more short-term rentals like ones listed on websites like Airbnb. She also said the proposed building should be smaller to better fit the area.

“It’s clearly incompatible with its surroundings and hardly appears residential,” Lutz said in an email, noting she was not speaking on behalf of her former organization.

Stewart has also proposed another development that would transform the landscape of the historic district.

In 2016, he unveiled plans for a parking garage with almost 500 spaces on the block bordered by Charles, Craven and West streets. He amended that proposal last year, saying the more than $15 million price tag for a garage wasn’t feasible and that hotel rooms on the upper floors made more sense.

Those plans are “still on the drawing board,” Stewart said Tuesday. The property will continue to be used for parking for the foreseeable future.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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