Post and Courier- Navy base redevelopment underway
Covering about 70 acres on and adjacent to the base, the Navy Yard Charleston redevelopment aims to repurpose multiple historic buildings while also constructing new ones. Housing, shopping and destination entertainment are planned.
The private development is happening just as the city of North Charleston pursues sweeping redevelopment plans of its own, also on or near the old footprint.
Navy Yard Charleston owns several of the large storehouse buildings on the former base, the iconic Power House, a historic hospital they’ve dubbed “the infirmary” and nearby the former Charleston Naval Hospital at Rivers and McMillan avenues, the tallest building in North Charleston.
The development team includes Charleston-based WECCO Development and Atlanta-based companies Weaver Capital Partners and Jamestown. They are known for historic redevelopment projects including the Cigar Factory in Charleston, Chelsea Market in Manhattan, Westside Provisions and Ponce City Market in Atlanta and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.
What’s happening right now is construction on two large buildings on Noisette Boulevard known as Storehouse 8, built in 1906 to house Navy offices, and Storehouse 9, built in 1918 for Navy offices and storage.
The renovation work will salvage architectural details, from the slate roof to the original hallways, according to the developers. The buildings will become home to offices, live-work apartments, restaurants and a roof-top bar.
“All of the 78 apartments are designed to be utilized by people in crafts or trades,” said Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown. “People who are doing things in the design and maker space.”
Eight more units will be on the ground floor of one building and will include retail space “geared to makers and artisans.”
Graphic artists, architects, painters and jewelry designers are examples of people in the “creative class of Charleston” who might like to live and work in those spaces, Phillips said.
The land between the two storehouse buildings will become a plaza with outdoor dining and event space. Once they are open, the developers believe the buildings and the plaza will help create a sense of place as the larger plan moves forward.
“Breathing life back into Storehouses 8 and 9 is a giant step forward in the community-first vision for redevelopment of the former Naval Base in North Charleston,” Mayor Keith Summey said in a prepared statement.
For nearly two years, much of the work has been going on behind the scenes, dealing with permits and the financially important historic building renovation tax credits. There was also some asbestos removal needed at the former Charleston Navy Hospital, Phillips said, despite a previous renovation attempt there by others.
Navy Yard Development, led at the time by then-state Rep. William Cogswell, R-Charleston, and Jay Weaver of Weaver Capital, bought the former hospital and the 23 acres upon which it sits from Charleston County for $15 million in 2000. Plans call for converting the 10-story building to apartments, with new apartments planned later on the same large property.
Cogswell has since left the Legislature, is a candidate for mayor of Charleston and has stepped away from daily operations of his development company WECCO, leaving his wife, Lucile Cogswell, in charge.
The former Naval Hospital sits across Rivers Avenue from Charleston County’s new social service building and a planned transit center where the Lowcountry Rapid Transit line will stop, once the bus line is created. At the other end of the property is Spruill Avenue, with the former Navy base just beyond.
An auto and pedestrian overpass is planned from Cosgrove Street to McMillan Avenue onto the former base because rail traffic to and from the new shipping container port at the south end of the base would conflict with existing streets.
“We are keenly aware of the need to create connectivity between the Naval Hospital and the Navy yard,” Weaver said.
According to the development group, a neighborhood employment program with project-specific jobs for local residents will be launched this year as part of the Naval Hospital redevelopment.
As the Navy Yard Charleston plan advances, there will be new apartment buildings constructed on what are now parking lots. The huge Power House, built in 1909 to power the base, will become a new music venue.
“It has been going through environmental remediation and getting ready for construction in the second quarter,” Phillips said. “One of the reasons it’s taken so long is that (music performance) industry as a whole has gone through a lot of changes in terms of moving forward post-COVID.”
This isn’t the first attempt to redevelop the Navy base or the former Naval Hospital. The city-affiliated Noisette Plan was announced more than 20 years ago to redevelop the area, but after achieving some success, the Noisette Company ended in foreclosure.
A different development group attempted to renovate the Naval Hospital for use by Charleston County and others, but that effort ended in a bankruptcy that cost the county $33 million to settle.
The current development group is a team known for successful projects in Charleston and several large cities — Atlanta, New York, San Francisco — and for the Storehouse Row project that’s going on now Piedmont Private Equity is also a partner.
While that work is ongoing, North Charleston is pursuing redevelopment plans of its own, which include the 28-acre residential Olmstead Park development near the north end of the base and an $8 million pedestrian bridge across Noisette Creek.
The bridge will link the 12-acre Riverfront Park to 90 acres of land along the river where the city’s been working on a redevelopment plan called Battery Park.
All of the projects sit below or adjacent to the Park Circle neighborhood, which includes a popular restaurant and nightlife destination along East Montague Avenue. If all the plans are realized, a person could some day walk or bike from Park Circle through the Battery Park development, across the bridge spanning Noisette Creek, through Riverfront Park to the Navy Yard Charleston development.
Like the Navy base itself, Park Circle was once better known for heavy industry — many of the homes there were built to house employees of the former General Asbestos and Rubber Company. It’s an urban rebirth that private developers and the city hope to replicate.