By: Warren L. Wise
A downtown Charleston storage facility in a historic building surrounding an antebellum smokestack could soon see a mixed-use development sprout on the site.
An Ohio-based developer and a Charleston real estate investment firm recently bought 12 parcels on and around the site of AAA Downtown Storage at 44 Line St. in a deal valued at nearly $8.7 million.
The buyers aren’t outlining their specific plans for the mid-peninsula site, but an environmental cleanup plan filed with the state related to the block calls for a mix of uses, including apartments, businesses and open space.
Lifestyle Communities, a developer and property manager based in Columbus, Ohio, and The Seine Group of Charleston, through an Atlanta-based arm called East Line Partners LLC, bought the 294-unit storage business as well as the 2-plus acres bound roughly by Sheppard, Meeting and Line streets and an old railroad line.
Seine is a partner in the 10-story Woolfe Street apartment building rising about three blocks south of the storage site.
The purchase includes four parcels on the south side of Line Street near the unused rail line, just north of the Courier Square apartment and commercial building being constructed on property owned by the parent company of The Post and Courier.
Justin Ferira, Seine’s CEO, said it’s unclear what the use will be for the properties south of Line Street. They are currently being used as a lay-down yard on the Courier Square project.
Chad Thompson, chief marketing officer for Lifestyle Communities, said he hopes to have a better picture of the proposal in a couple of months.
The central building of the mini-storage warehouse dates back to 1857, which means the historic structure won’t be going anywhere under the city’s preservation guidelines.
“The plan is to showcase the historic building,” Ferira said.
As part of the property deal, the Preservation Society of Charleston waived a right of first refusal it had held for 32 years on the site of the historic structure at 44 Line. It retained an option to buy the property if it becomes available again.
The preservation easement is a protective mechanism the society holds on historic properties in Charleston.
“We worked with them on this acquisition, and we didn’t feel any need to utilize it in this situation,” said Kristopher King, the group’s executive director.
King said developers plan to renovate an old carpenter’s shop, which is the main building on the storage-warehouse site, and convert it to commercial use. Construction above it will not be allowed, he added.
“A storage warehouse is not the highest and best use of that property,” he said. “We are intrigued by the idea of having a public use there.”
King said also there are two vacant historic houses on Sheppard Street that the developers will have to address.
“We oppose the relocation of historic structures,” he said. “They need to show us a strong case as a benefit for having them moved.”
He added, though, that he is unsure if leaving them there is the best option.
“The onus is on them to show what is best for that property and the historic structures,” King said.
Ten of the parcels, previously owned by Hagerman Court LLC and others, sold for $7.6 million.
Two other parcels included in the deal were sold separately.
City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie sold the developers a lot at 36 Line for $425,000, while a firm called CB3 LLC sold the lot at 38 Line for $650,000, according to Charleston County property records.
Gregorie did not immediately respond to an email and phone calls for comment.
Historical records show the site closest to the rail line, developed in the mid-1800s, included an assortment of shops for blacksmiths, woodworking, machines, paint and offices. A plywood warehouse and large oil-storage room also were located on the site during the 1900s.
Because of past uses of the property and those of former nearby businesses that could have leached substances into the soil, a required environmental testing of soil samples showed some contamination above acceptable federal levels for lead, arsenic and other substances. Water samples were fine, according to the environmental study of the site.
East Line Partners has agreed to assess and manage any cleanup of the site, according to a filing with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 843 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.