Former Olde Town inn to become apartments

 

An Olde Town bed and breakfast is getting a new purpose.

The Victorian home at 334 Greene St., built in the late 1800s, operated as a single-family residence for nearly a century before becoming a bed and breakfast in 1985. The former inn will get new life as developers plan to convert the 3,600-square-foot, two-story building into 10 studio apartments.

“It’s had a steady occupancy since it was built, which is great for historic property,” said Robyn Anderson, the preservation services director for Historic Augusta Inc. “It’s when you get the ones that are vacant for 10 to 20 years … in five years, we’ve got issues. I’ve been in some where I can see through the floorboards or there is no bannister to go up.”

Historic documents show the home’s first occupant was Charles Patrick, a postal clerk for South Carolina Railroad.

The restoration project, expected to cost about $270,000, is made viable by state and federal tax credits available for properties undergoing rehabilitation in historic districts, said Paul King, the general manager of Rex Property & Land, which is taking on the work.

King said that as much as 40 percent of the project will be financed through a low-interest loan by the Georgia Cities Foundation, whose mission is to assist cities in revitalizing and enhancing downtown areas. The remaining funding will come from an investor and First Bank of Georgia.

Historic rehabilitation ventures also are exempt from property taxes, King said.

To receive tax breaks, a developer must retain and repair any “character-defining features,” Anderson said. For the Greene Street property, which was most recently called Vine Inn, this means details such as interior hardwood floors, wainscoting, high ceilings, windows and 10 fireplace mantels will remain.

The roof, front porch and rear exterior wooden siding are in need of repair, King said. Indoors, the most expensive items likely will be installation of fire systems and adding plumbing for laundry areas and kitchens. Each unit, estimated to rent in the upper $500s, will have hardwood floors.

“I think our biggest concern is always the envelope of a building,” King said. “The roof on this place is really our number one. It looks good on the inside. It’s just not functional.”

Work hasn’t started, but the project is expected to take about six months to complete, King said.

Victorian homes are popular in downtown Augusta and the Summerville area, and are often attractive to people because of their larger rooms, high ceilings and large windows, King said.

King said his group has invested in Olde Town since 1983 and manages more than 100 apartments in the downtown neighborhood. Two years ago, he turned a neighboring Victorian bed and breakfast on Greene Street into the Dunbar-Howard House, which consists of 12 studio units that are larger than those soon to be constructed nearby. That structure was in a more deteriorated condition and cost about $600,000 to restore, he said.

“We’re very concerned about the neighborhood always and keeping it healthy and vibrant is something we’re concerned about,” King said. “It’s not always easy. This is a core area right here, so we think it’s real critical.”

Historic Augusta currently has 25 applications underway for historic tax credits in Augusta, which is the most since the nonprofit organization was founded in 1965, said Tennent Houston, chairman of the group’s preservation committee. At least four of those applications are in Olde Town.

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