New life for the Albert House

by | June 6, 2019 5:00 am

Last Updated: June 5, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Cecilia Chafin’s plan to put the former Albert House back to work is taking the next step.
Chafin is set to close on the purchase of 545 E. Washington St. — the portion of the building at the intersection of Washington and Wichman streets which contained commercial properties on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.
She already owns the other part of the building and last year had it converted into apartments to provide housing for the USC-Salkehatchie women’s basketball team.
Chafin is also working with USC-Salkehatchie to transform a historic residence on Hampton Street into apartments for members of the college’s women’s volleyball team.
At city council’s June 4 meeting, council members approved an application for preliminary certification to Chafin and David Eames to make the project at 545 E. Washington St. the first rehab of a historic commercial property done in the city under the state’s Bailey Bill.
The same measure was also on the June 4 Colleton County Council agenda for a second reading. County Council requires three readings before an ordinance can see a final vote, which will come at county council’s July 30 session.
The Bailey Bill provides an economic development incentive to the developer undertaking the renovation of a historic structure.
Traditionally, the guidelines for renovating a historic structure focuses on the exterior of the building. Chafin has been working with the city’s Historical Preservation Commission to ensure that the plans for the building do not alter the historic appearance of the structure.
The Historic Preservation Commission has recommended approval of Chafin and Eames application for Bailey Bill preliminary certification.
Chafin said the current plans are to renovate the eight apartments located on the second floor.
Unlike her two previous projects, Chafin said she does not consider students at USC-Salkehatchie as potential tenants. In Walterboro’s tight rental market, she sees it as possibly being a useful location for instructors at the college or teachers in the school system.
Downstairs, she envisions commercial or office space as the primary option.
Her first goal this summer is to complete the renovation of the Hampton Street apartments. It has to be ready by Aug. 1 for occupancy by the volleyball team.
Chafin said that if she had known about the state’s Bailey Bill, she might have considered purchasing the entire building back when she purchased the portion that had once housed a daycare facility on the first floor and a residence on the second floor.
Chafin said Walterboro Assistant City Manager Hank Amundson has been very helpful in the process of seeking the Bailey Bill certification. Completing the application for the Bailey Bill, she added, took approximately 20 hours.
Amundson said transforming the portion of the building into housing for the women’s basketball team was not a major undertaking.
“This one will be a bigger project,” he added.
“She is going to put significant money into it,” Amundson said. To qualify for the Bailey Bill, you have to spend at least 50 percent of the property value in renovation. Chafin will have to spend at least $215,000 in renovating the building to freeze the property value at $412,000 for 20 years.
Amundson said that former owner “didn’t go out of business because they lacked business. I always thought that building was a big opportunity. The commercial space is one of the best downtown spaces in the city.”

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