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Two Charleston Projects Benefit Low-Income Seniors

Fri November 26, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

The Charleston, S.C., area will soon see the opening of two sparkling new apartment complexes geared exclusively to low-income seniors, age 55 and older.

The twin projects were funded and built through the Humanities Foundation, a Charleston-based non-profit that is becoming well known in the South for creating beautiful homes for low-income citizens.

The first of the two complexes to open will be Seven Farms Village, located on upscale Daniel Island, across the Cooper River and just north of downtown Charleston.

Construction of the $5 million project is currently wrapping up, but when it is dedicated in early December, Seven Farms will offer 42 one-bedroom, one-bath units (a total of 709 sq.ft.), with rents beginning at $500 per month.

The second complex, Grandview Apartments, is still under construction and is located in the suburb of West Ashley, just west of Charleston, on Magwood Drive. This 72-unit building features one- and two-bedroom apartments, with rental rates beginning at $500 for the one-bedrooms and $598 for the two-bedrooms.

Forty-eight of the units are one-bedroom and 24 are two-bedroom apartments.

The total cost of the Grandview project is $9 million and it is scheduled to be finished by Feb. 1, according to Shane Doran, a spokesman for the Humanities Foundation.

Both apartment complexes are available to senior citizens with incomes equal to or less than 60 percent of the local median income, which is around $25,300 for a single person.

“There really is a big need for affordable homes in this area for seniors,” Doran said. “In order to live in either of these complexes, you have to be 55 and you have to pass a screening process to make sure that your income is low enough.”

Seven Farms Village has been built on land just behind another low-income complex that faced neighborhood opposition in 2005 when it was built.

Since then, though, both projects have become accepted by the area’s residents, due in part to the fact that the complexes are well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing.

Grandview also is near the existing Grand Oak Apartments, another Humanities Foundation project built a decade ago.

Doran said that the Charleston area presents a special set of challenges for any construction firm building there. Those include the area’s sometimes marshy terrain and the threat of three natural forces: earthquakes, floods and hurricanes.

“We really offer the trifecta down here in that we have to meet flood requirements, as well as keeping in mind the area’s history of seismic and hurricane concerns,” he explained. “Grandview is made up of three floors over a slab with parking underneath, while Seven Farms is three floors on a slab with adjacent parking. Seven Farms is not in a floodplain, but due to the seismic and hurricane requirements, we still have to shore up our footings with pilings. Grandview, due to flood elevation requirements, is built on pilings that are one-story in height and provide covered parking for our residents.”

Grandview also is being built with lots of natural areas around it and includes a 40-ft. (12 m) buffer between it and the creek to the rear of the development. Very little of that area is being disturbed and is being left in a natural setting, according to Doran.

Seven Farms, by contrast, is set in a much more planned and urban area on Daniel Island, a master-planned community where the average income for its homeowners is $140,000.

“Seven Farms being on Daniel Island, I think, is one of the best examples of how an affordable housing project can fit seamlessly into a community,” Doran said.

The 114 apartments within the two new Charleston-area complexes make up about one-tenth of the units developed by the Humanities Foundation across the South. Most are in the Charleston area, but other developments can be found in the South Carolina cities of Orangeburg and Port Royal. Doran said that the organization has recently opened a 96-unit affordable complex in Staunton, Va., and plans are underway to build another 96 apartments in nearby Stuart’s Draft, Va.

Both Seven Farms and Grandview were financed by low-income tax credits, Doran commented.

“We have done more than a thousand units of low-income tax credit deals to date,” Doran added. “We currently have 210 under construction, including those in these two Charleston projects and we still retain an ownership interest in 670 units in Charleston.”

Both developments are being built by Connelly Builders Inc., Columbia, S.C. Doran said that each one is working on about an 11-month construction cycle.

Since its formation in 1992, the Humanities Foundation has made a significant impact in the communities it serves by developing affordable housing to help a variety of low-income populations, including those with special needs such as the disabled, single mothers and senior citizens. CEG

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