Clemson Grad Students Tour the Revitalization of the Historic Markley Station

Throughout the Upstate, there’s a growing market of the revitalization of historic sites. Markley Station is no exception. Located in Greenville’s historic West End, this urban street that was once a commerce hub on the railroad is now flourishing with visions of condos, retail, and office space. With Markley Station’s rustic charm, it will no doubt become the center of this vision for its tenants and visitors.

Harper General Contractors recently completed the revitalization process of Markley Station in December 2017. The developer Ralph Settle, with RealOp Investments, was very engaged with the process and attributes the brilliant re-construction to the highly qualified team on the project. Through the teams of Harper General Contractors, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, and the CBRE leasing firm, Markley Station is again able to contribute to the ongoing development and momentum in the West End.

Recently the Clemson University Real Estate Development graduate students had the pleasure of receiving an on-site tour of Markley Station lead by Ralph Settle, who himself happens to be an alumni of the program. The students are part of a two-year Masters of Real Estate Development program consisting of 40 students from all across the world. Robert Benedict, the director of this program, stated “We want our students to see developments that are going to compliment existing, surrounding areas. We want the emphasis on urban infill and mixed-use developments ⎯ that are active spaces not only for office, but dining and retail. Markley was a great fit for a program tour and it’s being developed by a former Masters Real Estate Development alumni.”

When considering the impact this development is having in Greenville he remarked, “This is a dynamic area that is taking off and it’s the type of development that they (the students) want to be involved in when they finish the program. It continues what Greenville has been, an active and walkable environment.” Ralph also vocalized that what’s unique about Markley is that it’s an existing building, whereas all around it the dirt is worth more than the buildings. Buildings on the same street are being torn down while hotels and condos are replacing these existing structures. “What is unique about Markley is it truly was warehouses on the rail line and now we are able to convert that into office space, retail, and restaurants,” contributed Ralph.

Ralph reflects that Markley Station is “a nice way to do an adaptive reuse of existing buildings. We (RealOp Investments) were able at the right time, with the appropriate basis, to save the buildings. We wish to be true to what the buildings are: nice 30s/40s/50s warehouses on the rail line, single and multi-story, with concrete floors, structural beams, and existing brick that adds to the character of what downtown Greenville calls the warehouse district. This is the reason why they call it the warehouse district ⎯ because of these very buildings.”

Currently there are two tenants, Fortis Riders and Aluma Connect. Ralph and his team are hoping the development will attract an array of tenants like restaurants, bars, brewery, retail, boutiques, or coffee shops on the lower levels to create a nightlife and to compliment with some creative office spaces on the upper levels. It’s their hope to have people who celebrate what the buildings are, with the open environment to do their work, which exemplifies the next generation of office space. The CBRE leasing team working with Markley are native to Greenville and have an invested interest in seeing this as the next hot spot in the West End of Greenville.

When it comes to the measures and precautions involved in developing a historical site such as this, Ralph believes it all depends on the team. “There’s a reason why RealOp went with Harper. They’ve done these projects successfully before. They understand these buildings and know where the potential pitfalls are, where to look, and what structural engineers to work with. From the perspective of re-developing one of these buildings, you are only successful as your team. With McMillan Pazdan Smith, Harper, Blue Water, and Britt Peters, they’ve done this before and with protecting our investment dollars it makes sense to go with a team with such expertise and that is well-known for this type of product” affirms Ralph. Ralph also reflected that he has enjoyed the Harper senior leadership taking interest in the project and that David, Harper’s President, has walked the project as well.

Harper has a reputation for effectively assessing potential reconstruction and developmental issues and making changes accordingly in order to keep budget costs down. Andy Hall, the Director of Preconstruction at Harper, was in charge of this process at the Markley project. When discussing about how this process was completed Ralph stated the following, “Andy did a great job and spent months with different various teams to analyze the building and brought in the appropriate team members at the appropriate times to let us really understand what we were getting ourselves into. He was truly a voice of reason and reality to the cost implications involved. Then the transition from Andy to Bryan was completely smooth.”

Bryan Kutcher, Harper's Project Manager, oversaw the Markley Station project. He was recruited to this project because of his previous extensive experience with the revitalization of historic sites. When discussing the challenges associated with renovating a historical building such as Markley, he explained that “Some of the challenges we faced on doing this historic renovation were the existing wood columns and beams that needed to be replaced because they were either splitting or had damage from the previous work that had been done. There was also some termite and water damage to some of the wood causing it to have to be replaced as well. We also, in the one-story building, ran into a settling foundation that caused the foundation and some exterior brick to crack.” All of the existing issues found were efficiently reconstructed while still maintaining the original, historic appearance. Due to the expertise of the Harper team and all those involved, no further issues arose during the renovation process.

It is Harper's vision and priority to help rebuild the communities around them. They are honored to be a part of the revitalization of Markley Station and have high expectations for what it is today and its impact it will hold for the West End community.