In the heart of Old Town Bluffton along May River Road, large “FOR SALE” signs in front of several derelict structures advertise a new opportunity for developers. The signs direct residents to a website with conceptual plans, maps and renderings for what could be built.

The website is longtime landowner Francis Coburn’s vision for more than 4 acres that he’s been trying to sell for years. It includes a parking garage and a 75-room hotel on 3 acres adjacent to The Promenade on May River Road, as well as a 1.4-acre block of commercial and retail buildings between Calhoun Street and Dubois Lane.

But the town of Bluffton, contacted this week about Coburn’s development vision, had no knowledge of it.

In April, Coburn hired KRA Architecture + Design and brokerage firm Coastal Investment Network to create a plan to sell his two parcels.

The development is being marketed as “Heritage Place at Old Town.” All conceptual plans would have to be approved by the town of Bluffton, and the town has not received any applications, spokesperson Debbie Szpanka said.

A large “for sale” sign along May River Road advertises the development as a “Mixed-Used Development Opportunity.”

“The seller is really trying to balance the culture and history of Bluffton with what is allowable in the current zoning,” Coastal Investment Network broker Chris Bowes said. “He has a true love and affection for Bluffton and is extremely sensible to the culture of Old Town.”

Bowes is selling the land as two different parcels — Heritage Place North and Heritage Place South. Heritage Place North, the 3 acres adjacent to The Promenade where renderings show concepts for a hotel and parking garage, is listed online for $6 million, but Bowes said that price is negotiable. The 1.4-acre block between Calhoun Street and Dubois Lane dubbed Heritage Place South is listed at $3 million.

“We have received inquires from both local and out-of-town folks,” he said. “It’s a unique and special property, and it’s not for everyone based on the size and scope.”

Representatives from KRA Architecture + Design did not return two calls for comment over two days.

Several buildings on the property are identified as contributing structures to the Bluffton Historic District, including the “Red Dot” liquor store built in 1930.

“It’s imperative from the seller’s standpoint that whatever is developed on this property maintains the quality of Bluffton with as little disruption as possible,” Bowes said.

Coburn has been trying to sell the property for years. In 2016, a group of Old Town Bluffton business and property owners, including Coburn, tried to sell a portion of the land to the town for about $2.8 million — citing it as a potential solution to Old Town’s notorious parking woes. The roughly 3-acre parcel would have accommodated about 250 parking spaces. However, the plan never gained traction.

The property is zoned as a neighborhood core historic district, which would allow for various developments, including commercial buildings, a live-work community, civic buildings, restaurants, a hotel and offices.


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