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Tour of downtown housing to highlight need for more options

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Anyone curious about downtown living has a chance at a sneak preview tonight.

Loft Walk, an annual event, features guided tours of three properties in the heart of Charleston from 5 to 7 p.m. The event begins at Adelphia Sports Bar on Capitol Street.

Organizers with Generation Charleston hope to prompt the sale of the loft apartments and encourage developers to provide even more downtown dwellings for sale or rent.

The three locations on the Loft Walk tour are for sale, said Eric Morris, co-chairman of Generation Charleston's Professional and Economic Development Committee.

Morris is a 25-year-old employee at BB&T, working in commercial banking. He lives on the East End and is a fan of downtown living but says there aren't enough options.

As a member of Generation Charleston, which has about 1,000 young business people as its members, Morris commonly hears how hard it is to find rental units in the downtown business district.

"Across the board, we're hearing frustration from young professionals about how hard it is to find housing close to downtown," Morris said. "Either there isn't any or the price point is too high for existing units." 

Morris can quickly rattle off the lifestyle pluses:

  • Residents of downtown apartments could walk to the shops and restaurants along Capitol Street.
  • The furniture district is also within walking distance of downtown, and residents also could head toward the East End and its food and entertainment options.
  • But he's also fully aware of the downside: the high cost to buy or rent the available units.

    In past tours, rental properties have also been shown. But those are becoming hard to come by, Morris said.

    "We had a difficult time finding properties for rent in downtown," he said.

    Morris didn't have specific figures for the number of rental units downtown or the occupancy rate, but he says the anecdotal evidence points to a shortage.

    So Generation Charleston will showcase two properties for sale in the Kanawha Banking and Trust Building on Capitol Street along with another unit at 225 Hale St. near the Vandalia Grill.

    One of the units in the Kanawha Banking and Trust Building is 2,800 square feet and the asking price is $529,000, Morris said. The other is 3,500 square feet and is offered for $799,000.

    The property on Hale Street is 2,600 square feet and is on sale for $450,000, Morris said.

    Generation Charleston is also showcasing a large vacant building in the East End furniture district just behind Appalachian Power Park.

    Showcasing the 65,000- to 75,000-square-foot Charmco building might spark interest from developers who could turn the structure into apartments or condos, Morris others with the organization hope.

    "We're hoping to generate some traction and see if there are any developers that would like to develop that property into commercial or residential use," Morris said.

    The property is six stories, and an asking price has not yet been established, he said.

    Another intriguing possibility for development is the lot on Quarrier Street where the Holley Hotel used to sit, Morris said.

    City Manager David Molgaard will speak about the plan to use the property for a complex including apartments for young professionals during the three-day urban living showcase, which starts with today's Loft Walk and ends on Thursday.

    Molgaard and other city leaders envision a structure with apartments on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground level.

    The plan hinges on employers subsidizing employees' rent to keep the payments affordable for recent college graduates.

    "I think it's a brilliant idea," Morris said. "I think this plan is innovative and it could work." 

    Meanwhile, Morris and Generation Charleston also are conducting an inventory of buildings already available for development.

    "Instead of a 'build it and they will come' philosophy, we're wanting to show developers that there is a demand for downtown housing and hopefully they'll develop some vacant buildings," he said.

    The Loft Walk is free and open to the public, and food and refreshments will be served at Adelphia Sports Bar during the event.       

    Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

     


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