A riverfront project, including condominiums, a brewhouse, restaurant and retail space, is zipping through its approval process with the City of Conway and could be under construction by June, according to North Carolina developer Stephen Fitzpatrick.
For awhile, Fitzpatrick thought his company, Genford Development Company, would be allowed to build only one of the two buildings his company had planned, but learned recently that the city will allow him to build both.
Fitzpatrick met with Conway City Council this past week and has been working on reconfiguring the condominium project since then.
The building, expected to have 50 condominiums, will now have two elevators instead of one, more condominiums with balconies providing better views of the river, a workout area and pool on the second floor overlooking the river, and some changes in the materials used.
Fitzpatrick says the once-planned peaked roofs will now be flat and some of the condominiums have been reconfigured and stacked to take advantage of the beautiful view that he says is “just unique and needs to be used.”
This project will be located behind the old Jerry Cox Company and Kingston Street, siding S.C. 905 and behind Kingston Presbyterian Church.
He plans to replace the Ocean Fish Market with a newer, more up-to-date restaurant, but wants to keep the look and flavor of the longtime Downtown Conway eatery, so he plans to take some of its materials and use them for trellises and other features. He’s also trying to gather as many pictures as he can of the business that has been operating in that location for more than 50 years.
Although they are not officially in pre-sales for the condominiums, Fitzpatrick says he has already had about three, four or maybe five people tell him they’d like to buy one.
There are two issues still to be scaled: one is parking and the other is cost. Fitzpatrick says there will be only one parking space for each condominium unit, but residents have permission to use the parking lot across Kingston Street.
As for cost, he said, “We do have a source of finances that is a private equity-type thing, but we’re still not immune to price increases. Costs are outrageous,” he said.
That has caused them to look at different options, but they’re confident they can make the plan work.
“So we’re trying to go quickly, but not so quickly that we make any mistakes…It’s one of those things that you either do it or you don’t do it. There is never a better time. People talk about that, but sometimes you just have to go with it and make it work, not figure out how to not make it work,”
As for the project, with the possible name of Kingston Landing, Fitzpatrick said, “I think it’s important for Conway.”
At the same time, the developers plan to start a second building, that will include a brewhouse, coffee house and restaurant, and will be located in the three lots beside the Bonfire Taqueria.
If they can pass all of their design reviews this month, he expects to be drawing permits in May and starting in June.
He plans to bring in some people who have worked with him on other projects, mostly supervisors and those responsible for the structural elements. Other than that he plans to hire from this area.
For this building, developers have added a mezzanine and expanded the capacity of the brewery, and they continue to work on a rooftop seating area.
“We’re really trying to take advantage of the river,” he said.
Also because the parcel isn’t huge, they’re hoping to increase the building vertically, as well as horizontally.
One of the ideas they’re looking at is offering brewery tours that will be led by licensed captains. The plan is to take customers on pontoon boats all the way to Winyah Bay, allowing them to drink their beer as they go.
“It’s just a way for people to enjoy the area and the brewhouse at the same time,” he said.
Fitzpatrick has been glowing in the past in his reviews of Conway and the Waccamaw River and he hopes his development will help the entire area.
“The more Conway grows, the better it is for everyone,” he said, adding however that he doesn’t want to see Conway become a metropolis.
He hopes that by locating on the water that boaters will use the new docks there to come to the riverwalk, tie up and go into the downtown area.
“We’re very much sold, I guess is the right word on the Conway area and what Conway is trying to do,” he said.
Several Conway City Council members are also sold on the project.
Councilman William Goldfinch likes the way the project emphasizes the city’s alleys and works perfectly with plans to direct people from Downtown Conway to the river.
This condominium project will leave an alley between it and Kingston Presbyterian Church that will allow people to move down Norman Alley and then through the new alley ending at the riverwalk.
Goldfinch remembers at least two other plans for the property that never came to fruition, and he believes that won’t be the case here.
“The numbers make a lot more sense with this proposal and what he wants to do. I’m excited we can have a beautiful project down there in that vacant lot and where the fish market is, too, and have that alley be an extension of the riverwalk…there’s been an emphasis, sort of, on our alleys of late and we’re sort of growing into that,” he said.
He also likes the atmosphere of the building.
“What he’s proposing to us fits in line and matches the historical character of the neighborhood. It will not compromise the historical integrity of that neighborhood,” he said.
Councilman Larry White says the building is a good thing and he’s ready to see something down there.
“I think it’s going to be a good idea, good for that area also,” he said.
He just wants Fitzpatrick and his group to “get on in there and get it done.”
Councilwoman Jean Timbes also shares White and Goldfinch’s enthusiasm for the project.
“I liked what he was showing us from the beginning,” she said, adding that she especially likes that he is willing to buy the property from the city, which some of the other prospective developers didn’t want to do.
“I want something to go on that corner. I’m tired of messing with it…I think Conway has got to back up a little bit and realize that times are changing. Little places like the fish market are going to be replaced,” she said.
She thinks that Fitzpatrick has a lot of good ideas. She joins Goldfinch in liking the way Fitzpatrick wants to get people to the river using the alleys.
“I think that business in Downtown Conway is good. I like the idea of condos along the river. I think it’s coming. I think people my age are going to sell their houses and move to places more convenient…,” she said.
She also likes the way the designers have staggered the levels of the building so there won’t be a tall building right on the street. The taller side will be riverside.
“I’m tired of looking at that lot. Something needs to go there,” she said.
Her one concern is parking.
“That’s my concern…not just downtown, but everywhere, up and down Main Street…when we go to budget retreat, I’m going to push for us to take a good look at parking. Our ordinances are not working,” she said.