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Building Our City

By April 20, 2007News

City Club Sells Luxury, Location Developer Targets Those Who Want ‘the Best’

By: Jeff Wilkinson
At the time, the thought that anyone would shell out $400,000 for a flat in the old Middleton Building or up to $1 million for a town house seemed ludicrous. Well, it’s no joke.

While uncertainty is swirling around the downtown condo market, Caughman is showing that luxury is selling.

He and partner Wes Taylor say they’ve sold 28 of the 37 units offered in the City Club development, across Gervais from EdVenture and the State Museum.

The eight flats in the renovated Middleton Building — once home to the State Budget & Control Board — sold for $325,000 to $550,000 each, they said.

And 20 of the 29 town houses offered have sold at a base price of $650,000 each — three were upgraded with amenities to a selling price $1.2 million each. A third phase will add 17 more town houses.

The selling points are location and luxury.

“We’re not trying to reach the mass market,” said Caughman, a 39-year-old risk-taker whose resume includes a stint as a male model in Europe, owner of failed exotic motorcycle dealerships in Columbia and Miami, and now developer of some of the highest-priced real estate in the Midlands.

In addition to City Club, the partners turned a former dump site on the west bank of the river in West Columbia into Congaree Park, a single-family home development. They sold out 53 lots — 1/10th acre each — at $250,000 to $300,000 each.

“There’s been nothing of this quality to spend your money on in downtown,” Caughman said of the City Club development. “We’ve done well because our buyers are people that are moving from Heathwood, Shandon, the lake. They want the highest quality.”

The four-story town houses are showplaces for urban life. The 3,800- square-foot units can accommodate up to five bedrooms.

Even the two-bedroom, 3,000- square-foot base units come with elevators, 10-foot ceilings, granite countertops, copper roofs and down spouts, restaurant-grade Viking ranges, bedroom fireplaces, Brazilian cherry wood flooring, two-car garages and multiple balconies with views of both the Congaree River and the downtown skyline.

The complex shares a pool, massive gym and putting green.

“The whole concept was to do a New York- or Beacon Hill-style town house,” Caughman said. “Our customer is downsizing the maintenance (of a single-family home), not the lifestyle.
That was exactly what Chip Prezioso was looking for.

Prezioso, owner of Palmetto Promotions and the South Carolina Shops, sold his 3,000-square-foot house in Gregg Park and bought a 3,800-square-foot town house at City Club. He paid a base price of $675,000 and put another $75,000 into upgrades.

“It’s definitely upper end,” he said of the town house and the amenities he chose. “But there are always people who will want the upper end. It was a very good buy.”

F. Simons Hane, a physician, kept the family’s country home in Calhoun County, but he and his wife, Violet, decided to get a place downtown as well.

They bought a flat in the Middleton Building for $375,000, and added $10,000 in upgrades. They also cut the long-leaf pine flooring from trees on their farm and brought a little of the old homestead to the city.

The couple enjoys walking to Vista restaurants like Gervais & Vine and West Bank eateries like Al’s Upstairs. They also walk to the nearby Publix grocery store and are looking forward to a stroll to ballgames at USC’s new baseball stadium — even though he’s a Clemson fan.

The success of City Club proves that luxury sells downtown, Mayor Bob Coble said. But it also heats the market to the point that one day, it might be difficult for blue collar workers to afford to live downtown.

“It’s good that we are having this kind of investment,” the mayor said. “But it’s an indicator of downtown’s market and shows the need for an affordable housing policy. We need to be balanced.”

In the meantime, Caughman plans to keep pressing quality.

“We’ve developed a feel for what our buyer wants,” he said.
Source: The State Newspaper