Since 1997, the three-story building at 1600 Meeting Street has sat vacant, an odd manse of an office building in the northern end of Charleston known as the Neck. But change is on the way: A local developer is hoping to close a deal on the building in January, renting out spaces to artists and businesses looking for a collaborative workplace. The developers hope to have two detached buildings at the rear of the property renovated and ready for occupants by spring or early summer of 2013.
Hedge fund manager Kate Nevin and her husband, developer Lindsay Nevin, got the idea for the space from Pecha Kucha 7, where they learned that Charleston's creative industry generated more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2009. They cast a pretty grand vision in a City Paper cover story about the building in October 2011, and on a recent tour of its stately interior, Kate Nevin was still optimistic about 1600 Meeting and the largely industrial neighborhood, which she calls "the last frontier of Charleston."
"When you come down 26 and you kind of spit out at Meeting, you miss all of this," Nevin said, crunching old paint chips underfoot as she showed off rooms that could eventually be rented to artists, craftsmen, tech companies, and even a dance studio. No one has signed any leases yet, and Lindsay Nevin's Flyway construction company will still have to renovate the interior, but Nevin estimates the building is already 50 to 60 percent spoken-for through handshake agreements.
Exxon originally built 1600 Meeting in 1926 as an office and bulk transport terminal. It later housed a computer college from 1970 to 1997. Robert Nielsen, who owned the Nielsen Electronics Institute, says his school was the only junior college in the country to own the groundbreaking Kenbak-1, the world's first personal computer. He says the building has sat unoccupied since he sold it in 1997, and he attributes interior damage to people vandalizing the building and stealing copper wiring.
Lindsay Nevin's company, Flyway, will have to overhaul the interior, removing the lowered fiberglass ceilings and leaving an industrial look with exposed ducts and freshly painted concrete walls.
The Nevins also recently announced the launch of a nonprofit organization called Enough Pie that, according to the 1600 Meeting website, "supports creative placemaking on the upper peninsula by funding creative programming, community development initiatives, and tactical urbanism projects."
Tactical urbanism, in case you were wondering, is a grassroots approach to urban planning, making small, block-by-block changes to improve the cityscape. Nevin says examples would be adding banners, painting telephone poles, planting trees, and installing murals. The nonprofit will host a guest lecture by Mike Lydon, a leader of the tactical urbanism movement, on Thursday at 7 p.m. at 2201 Mechanic St.
Correction: The story originally stated that the building at 1600 Meeting St. was vacant for 30 years. We regret the error.