Former Charleston furniture store to become hotel

Amy Horsfield By Amy Horsfield
10 January 2019 | Updated 10 January 2019

US: A plan is in the works to put people in beds for overnight stays and residential use in the large, vacant building on upper King Street.

Initial plans call for a 50-room boutique hotel, 20 condominiums, street-level retail and structured parking in a rear warehouse, according to Mike Shuler, one of the owners in the partnership that bought the nearly block-long structure in 2016 for $22.5 million. A project name has not been announced.

Work on a first phase of redevelopment could begin by next year in the two- and three-story store that closed in 2015 after 94 years, most of them at that location.

Mike Shuler said: "This is the perfect symbiotic mixed-use project that upper King Street needs. The idea is to inspire more foot traffic on King Street."

The old furniture store at 510 King St. sits in an accommodations overlay district that allows up to 50 hotel rooms, but Shuler said the owners have to go before the city's zoning board to make sure the project has enough parking and meets other requirements. The meeting is set for Jan. 15.

Shuler declined to specify the number of parking spaces targeted for the project, but he believes there will be more than enough to meet requirements.

He said: "We control a significant amount of surface parking spaces in the immediate vicinity. We own property across the street and around the corner."

A former storeroom behind the main showroom will be converted to multi-level parking.

Shuler said: "It used to store furniture, and now we will be storing cars there."

Several retailers have expressed interest in the site, but Shuler said he and his partners don't want the mixed-use project to be dictated by commercial users.

"We have been purposely strategically patient in not selecting a retail tenant. We don't want the tail to wag the dog. At the end of the day, we will select tenancy for what we think King Street needs and what will be the best fit for the project."

The main facade of the former furniture store will most likely be worked into the final design.

He said: "The intent is to keep the Morris Sokol facade and try to improve it and restore it. We think it's important for the street. It would be cheaper to tear it down and build something new, but we want to honour the facade in its essence. This is sort of a lifetime opportunity starting to come to life."

The main showroom at Morris Sokol opened in 1957 when the current building replaced an older structure. The business originally set up shop at 637 King in 1925 before moving to what was its present location in 1931. Prior to 1925, the business operated as a street vendor for a few years.

Former owner Joe Sokol died last year at the age of 86, three years after closing the business to retire.

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