Downtown Corpus Christi was “busy” when Cherylyn Boyd started working there in 1981.
With the help of new housing developments, it is returning to this heyday almost 40 years later.
Stonewater Properties, a Canadian company, will put 44 studio units online at 817 Carancahua St. in a former office building that has been vacant for decades in the coming weeks.
The renovation of the 600 building, which is about two blocks away, is also scheduled to begin at the end of the year. Upon completion of the project, another 131 units will be brought into the city center. Construction is expected to take 20 months.
Boyd, regional manager for Stonewater Properties, said the development company sees the need for residential units in the downtown area as well as the inventory of unused office space.
“There is a demand for housing and this will help revitalize the downtown area,” she said. “When people live downtown, they come to life. If they don’t live down here, they have no reason to come here.”
The renovation of 600 Building and Studio 44 will bring 175 residential units to the city center over the next few years.
More:Broadway Lofts and Studio 44 are preparing for apartment buildings
More:Wisznia, born in Corpus Christi, buys the legendary 600 building and plans 131 modern apartments
Downtown housing demand can absorb about 160 units per year, and the current complexes are about 90 percent occupied, according to the Corpus Christi Downtown Management District.
In the past 13 years, five apartment complexes have been developed and opened in the city center. Even when the 600 Building and Studio 44 is on the move, the pace of development is not keeping pace with growing demand, said Alyssa Barrera Mason, executive director of the Downtown Management District.
Downtown housing units are generally more expensive due to the complications of refurbishing an old structure and limited space.
“The development process is very complicated, so getting all prices right and right is a long process,” said Mason.
Stonewater Properties bought the structure in 2013 and started redevelopment in mid-2017.
It was built in 1942 and was home to an oil and gas company before turning into office space in the 1970s. The structure has been empty since the 1990s.
Through a city tax hike reinvestment zone, Stonewater Properties will receive $ 185,000 and tax credits of up to $ 25,000 for landscaping and parking improvements.
“We’d like to see more apartment buildings,” said Boyd. “Downtown Corpus is such a beautiful place. It has so much to offer. We have this beautiful bay.”
“We believe in growing downtown and we believe in growing Corpus,” she said.
Stonewater must complete redevelopment by the end of June to get its help from the city, Boyd said.
Building a similar complex from scratch would be cheaper than the project the company is taking on. Construction workers have to drill 10-inch concrete floor slabs because there were no holes for plumbing and electrical wiring, Boyd said.
A lack of subcontractors and unexpected adjustments to fire and building codes during construction can also present a challenge when refurbishing older structures.
THE 600 BUILDING
Wisznia Architecture and Development of New Orleans bought the 600 building on Leopard Street in Uptown in November.
The cost of the redevelopment project is estimated at $ 50 million. The company will receive approximately $ 2.5 million in funding from the city of TIRZ.
The 21-story building will have 135 parking spaces on the first six floors with 131 apartments and 2,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
Company president Marcel Wisznia had the building built in 1963 in mind because he grew up in Corpus Christi. The skyline of Corpus Christi would not be what it is today without his father Walter Wisznia.
The elder Wisznia designed the Wells Fargo Tower, towers # 2 and # 3 on Carancahua Street, and the current Nueces County Courthouse. He also helped develop the water garden.
Walter Wisznia died in 2004. Marcel Wisznia decided the 600 building was a project he wanted to take on when he came to Corpus Christi to move into his parents’ property and close down his father’s company.
“I took another look at the 600 building and saw it and felt that it has more and better uses than (office space),” he said.
The trend of downtown housing started in larger cities but has shifted to smaller communities like Corpus Christi, Wisznia said. People want to live in urban centers and where they work.
Residents moved to the Cosmopolitan Apartments in late 2017 and early 2018 when around 165 residential units went online.
“Our people are ready to live in downtown Corpus Christi. Look at the success of Cosmopolitan, and that alone shows you the church is ready for that change,” said Wisznia.
More:Downtown Corpus Christi: piano bar, country bar, café opening with others on Chaparral
More:Corpus Christi Cosmopolitan Apartments opens