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Title of historic Babcock building transferred to developer

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The historic Babcock building at the former S.C. Lunatic Asylum on Bull Street is now owned by the Virginia-based company that is renovating the 254,022-square-foot building into luxury apartments.

Hughes Development Corp., the master developer of the BullStreet District, transferred title of the state landmark to Clachan Properties, of Richmond, Va., according to a news release. In late 2019, Clachan announced plans to renovate the former S.C. Department of Mental Health building into 208 apartments.

An aerial view of the BullStreet District with the historic Babcock building in its center (Photo/Jeff Blake for BullStreet District)Hughes Development is transforming BullStreet, the 181-acre former S.C. State Hospital site in its sixth year of a 20-year development plan, into residential, retail, office and recreational properties. Hughes obtained the rights to own and renovate the Babcock building under a 2010 development agreement with the department of mental health.

“The difficulty of renovating the Babcock building cannot be overstated because of its cost, size, historic legacy and extremely poor condition,” said Robert Hughes, president of Hughes Development Corp., in the release. “Clachan is one of the few companies in the United States that has the craftsmanship, experience, and historic sensitivity to breathe new life into it. We gave Clachan the building with full confidence that they will honor its history and give it a bright future.”

Clachan anticipates the renovation will be completed by the end of 2022.

The Babcock building was completed in 1885 as the S.C. Lunatic Asylum. The last patients left in the early 1990s, and the building has not been in use since 1996. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Clachan Properties is awaiting a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to begin $40 million in renovation work on the building.

“This is one of the most significant — and most difficult — historic restoration projects in South Carolina history,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in the release. “A long-term, low-interest HUD loan is essential for undertaking a project of this magnitude because of the complexities involved in renovating a massive, deteriorating building to historical standards, and Clachlan is working on obtaining this loan.”

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