Plans to build apartments next to Edisto Memorial Gardens took a step forward on Thursday, although Orangeburg’s mayor says council is generally not comfortable with the project.

“We have to listen to the constituents,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said. “That is why we are here. They have concerns about it. The garden is a precious commodity, precious to the city. We have thousands of people come to the gardens. We are bound to listen to what they say.”

Council is at the moment is generally not comfortable with the proposal due to the uneasiness of constituents, he said.

“We want to bring some ease to their minds about this,” Butler said.

Orangeburg City Council on Thursday gave first of three required readings to the rezoning of land for the apartments. Council also gave first reading approval to the sale of three city-owned parcels behind the Pecan Company to allow the development to proceed.

People are also reading…

The majority of council members said they have heard from constituents concerned about the proposed development and its impact on Edisto Memorial Gardens.

Councilman Dr. Kalu Kalu specifically noted he approved first reading to allow public input.

A public hearing will be held prior to second reading on Tuesday May 7 at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at 933 Middleton Street. If it passes on second reading, a third reading would be scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.

Kalu expressed concerns about the development proceeding without the city having a comprehensive master plan for Russell Street.

“We need a master plan with what you are trying to propose,” Kalu said. “I am in favor of moving this to the second phase whereby we listen to the people, to the citizens, to see what they have in mind. I’d rather give them the opportunity to voice out their opinion on what they think about the project.”

The first order of business Thursday was a request to rezone four properties at 761 Russell Street (the Orangeburg Pecan Company) from B-1, General Business to B-2, Central Business District to allow multi-family workforce housing.

Two of the properties are owned by the Orangeburg Pecan Company and two are owned by the City of Orangeburg.

The parcels owned by Orangeburg Pecan total 2.02 acres. The two properties owned by the city total about .71 acres.

The first reading of the rezoning request passed 5-1 with Councilman Richard Stroman opposing.

The rezoning request was previously unanimously approved by the Orangeburg City Planning Commission on April 18.

Prior to first reading, Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt made a motion to cancel first reading due to concerns she has heard from constituents. The motion died for the lack of a second.

“I am just not right now pleased with what I am seeing because the gardens are so beautiful,” Keitt said. “To me, this type of building would take away from the gardens.”

Stroman said the plans for the buildings look good, “but I have had people call me and say they just don’t think apartments should be in the gardens. I have to go along with the people that put me here. I can’t go against them.”

“People just don’t want it in the gardens,” Stroman said.

First reading was then unanimously approved to authorize the transfer of three parcels owned by the city with improvements, if any, near the intersection of Russell Street and Seaboard Street.

One of transfers is of an entire .55-acre parcel and a portion of the .71 acres approved for rezoning.

City Administrator Sidney Evering said the developer is willing to purchase the property for $17,500.

The properties are directly behind the current Orangeburg Pecan building and are not a part of the Edisto Memorial Gardens, city officials said after the meeting.

The property developer said while the project does not need the parcels to proceed, it would provide additional parking and some walking trails that would complement the green space in the gardens.

The first reading, like the first reading of the rezoning request, was given specifically to allow the matter to advance to second reading and to allow the public to provide their input.

The proposal

Georgia-based Prestwick Development wants to build an affordable, multi-family workforce housing community at the site of the Orangeburg Pecan Company on Russell Street.

The proposal entails the construction of a $25 million to $30 million three-floor to four-floor apartment complex at the corner of Russell Street and Seaboard Street. The building is projected to have 68 mixed one- to three-bedroom units.

“I am not putting in something that is low class,” consultant Sarah Niemann told council. She’s representing Prestwick Development.

“It is going to be a very high, top-end, 68-unit community that will come in and the city is not putting in a penny towards it,” she said.

Niemann said if all goes well, she is hoping to close on the property in the first quarter of 2025 with pre-leasing beginning in the summer of 2026.

“It does not pop up overnight,” Niemann said. “It does take a little bit of time in order for us to bring the housing to Orangeburg.”

According to Niemann, each unit will include a washer and dryer hook-up, with one-bedroom units on the first floor to better accommodate senior citizens.

The building will have an elevator, plus conditioned walkways and stairwells to help reduce exterior noise.

It will also have a commons area with a full kitchen, a leasing office, restrooms, a trash chute, a fitness room and business center.

The commons area will also have a laundry facility on the main level for those who do not have machines in their individual units.

Each individual unit will be secured with access through a key fob and the building itself will also require key code access to ensure only residents who live in the building will be able to access it.

The property will be managed by NHE, an affordable housing management company, and will have an onsite resident manager.

The property’s parking lot will also have security cameras and a covered parking area for residents to pick up or drop off.

Outside there will also be a commercial playground area and a park including benches, Niemann said.

Rent is expected to range from $700 a month to $1,000 a month.

Niemann said she sees the property as a positive for the gardens.

“People can walk over and enjoy it,” she said. “I think it is a complement. It is our goal to put something in that we can also add to it and put in a walking trail that would complement it.”

Niemann also noted the rezoning request from B-1 to B-2 is the same change approved for the Railroad Corner project on the upper end of Russell Street. The city plans to revitalize the corner with student housing, shops and restaurants.

She said the two projects would bookend one another.

Niemann noted the property was chosen because Walmart, Roses and other retailers and restaurants are within walking distance.

Stroman questioned her assessment.

“Have you tried to walk up 301?” Stroman said. “I wouldn’t try. It is very dangerous.”

Niemann said the project has received letters of support from Sen. Brad Hutto as well as 27 local residents and business owners near the property.

She also said it would boost the city’s tax base.

She projects the city will receive about $68,000 annually in property tax revenues from the project. Niemann also said the development would help provide foot traffic to downtown businesses.

The Orangeburg Pecan property consists of about a 20,000-square-foot, 2.5-acre property spanning from Riverside Drive at the Edisto Memorial Gardens to Seaboard Street. The property was placed on the market in 2023.

The property includes several buildings, including a pecan processing area as well as warehouse space. The property also has about 450 feet of Russell Street frontage.

Workforce housing

Workforce housing is housing geared toward entry-level working individuals and retirees, Niemann said.

“I think there is a misconception,” Niemann said. “Workforce housing is not Section 8. It is not public housing. There is not a subsidy that is here on the property.

“This is not the type of housing where if all I could afford was $40 and the local government picks up the tab. That is not workforce housing.”

Niemann said all tenants would have to be employed and criminal and credit background checks would be done.

The government’s affordable housing qualifications are based on the median income for a family of four in a particular county. In Orangeburg, according to the latest U.S. Census data, the median household income is $52,200, Niemann said.

The apartments will be for those who, on average, earn 56 percent of $52,200.

“All 68 units have to average together 56 percent of your area’s median income,” she said.

For Orangeburg, this means individuals making between $31,000 and $43,000 annually would most likely qualify to live in the units.

Niemann said all of Orangeburg’s current affordable housing properties have waiting lists.

“Your demand here is incredibly high,” Niemann said.

“You don’t have enough housing for this type of demographic for who would live in these communities. Without workforce housing, you are missing a demographic in your community.

“As people graduate high school and come into the workforce, as they graduate college and come into the workforce, where are they supposed to live?”

Niemann said market-rate housing costs are out of reach for entry-level workers.

“Not everybody has $10,000 to put toward a home,” Niemann said. “They earn a decent wage, but they cannot afford homeownership.”

Niemann said workforce housing is a federal program where each state receives money to bring in affordable housing.

Developers have to apply to the state to develop affordable housing, she said.

There are four other developers who have applied for money to help develop workforce housing in Orangeburg County, she said.

She said there are about 45 applications statewide to develop affordable housing across the state to communities the size of Orangeburg.

South Carolina has received enough money for the development of about 20 affordable housing projects this year.

“It is a competitive process,” Niemann said.

Applications are due by May 24.

“Funding runs out every year,” Niemann said. She said the proposed location on Russell Street has been deemed the most likely to receive money because of its location and other scoring criteria.

Stroman said perhaps vacant property could be found in another location in the city, but Niemann said the property will not receive the scoring needed to receive funding assistance.

“I believe this is your best opportunity,” Niemann said.

Niemann said Orangeburg has not received any funding for affordable housing in over a decade, with the last being Parkside at Boulevard on Tea Olive Court in Orangeburg.

In other business, council unanimously agreed to postpone second reading of a change to the city code to add a vendor procurement protest policy.

Council decided to postpone second reading to ensure the language in the code is precise.

If approved, the policy will provide an outlet for vendors or the city to terminate a vendor agreement, which is similar to an employee grievance policy. The city does not currently have such a policy.

The city needs the policy in order to execute a brownfield grant received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to city officials.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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