Major Charleston affordable housing project only $200K away from the starting line
By Robert Behre

Charleston’s homeless shelter, originally called Crisis Ministries, began 35 years ago inside a former auto parts shop at 573 Meeting St.

Today, the building has been torn down, and the nonprofit homeless shelter, now called One80 Place, plans to turn the half-acre site into a $24 million, six-story affordable housing complex with 70 new apartments for the formerly homeless.

The project will tackle this reality: The average downtown rent is $1,700 a month. That’s $500 more than what a minimum wage worker would earn.

These are some of Charleston’s first housing in years built for residents on the lowest economic rungs, and it’s also unique because its residents will have access to One80′s support services, including its health clinic, legal services, employment and education services and community kitchen.

Still, tenants in the 70 units will be on their own, said Stacey Denaux, One80 Place’s CEO.

“You have a lease. You have a right to privacy, and we’re not checking on you every day like you were in the shelter,” she said. “We don’t want to make this feel like Shelter 2.0.”

The building’s design, which is undergoing Board of Architectural Review scrutiny, includes two smaller, three-story portions facing Meeting Street and a six-story rear. Architect Richard Gowe of LS3P said the goal is to make the apartments look and feel just as nice as if they were on the market, though there’s no swimming pool.

“It has the same features of a lot of market rate housing that’s being built,” he said. “It’s just slightly smaller.”

One80 Place said it needs to raise only $200,000 more out of $4.5 million from private sources, before it can break ground. “We’re counting on the community to step up,” Denaux said.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit also is working to line up low-income tax credits and finalizing the design. Denaux hopes construction will start next summer.

The new housing will be affordable but not transitional: Residents won’t be required to move after a certain time. Rents will be set at 30 percent of a tenant’s income.

Its residents may not earn more than 50 percent of the area median income, currently $27,300 a year. Vouchers from the Charleston Housing Authority will use Section 8 money to help some tenants who make as little as 30 percent of the area’s median income — that same income level that qualifies residents for traditional public housing.

“Basically, Section 8 will pick up the difference,” Charleston Housing Authority CEO Don Cameron said. “It helps underpin what they want to do.”

The building will have a small cafe on the first floor, an outgrowth of One80 Place’s existing culinary training program. The first floor also will have a spacious common lobby, plus a gym, a small food pantry and enough office space to house One80 Place staff currently working in West Ashley.

The second floor will be One80 Place’s new family shelter, with 65 beds for women and children, five more than the existing family shelter, which would be razed and used for parking.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.