Can one building renovation change the entire landscape of a city as old as Charleston?
For decades, 1600 Meeting Street was nothing much to look at. The three-story building sat fallow and dilapidated for close to 30 years in an area reserved for empty warehouses and lumberyards, developing the reputation as nothing more than an eyesore. A weed, if you will.
That is, until Austin Hipp and his compatriot, Lindsey Nevin, got their hands on all 40,000 square feet over two years ago. Now, with the first renovation phase of 1600 Meeting behind them, the building is no longer a blemish but a blessing to Charleston’s upper peninsula and a retreat for the area’s numerous creative entrepreneurs who call the building home.
Hipp is like the gardener who can see beyond what’s in front of him, past the weed to the future flower. That’s something he inherited from his father, who developed the Planter’s Inn “way back when people didn’t go over to Market Street because it was so rough,” says Austin.
Now, Hipp’s focus is on the second phase of 1600 Meeting, which will add an additional 50,000-square-foot space to the project with the construction of a building called The Refinery. The Refinery will feature retail, gallery space, an amphitheater and more offices—the majority of which has already been leased. The amphitheater is, naturally, what he’s most excited about.
Oh, and it wouldn’t be Charleston without a full-service restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We’re creating a community for the artistically minded and the artistically appreciative. There’s a natural synergy here,” says Hipp, who wants everyone to know that “this is a space available for anyone who wants to use it; it’s open to the community.”
This time next year, Hipp estimates that phase two will be finished. His dream? To look out over a meeting place—a beer in hand—bustling with people. The grounds pulsating with energy from pop-up shops, the restaurant going at full tilt, music cranking from the amphitheater and art galleries open all at once. Charleston will never be the same.
Words by: Annabel Jones
Photographer: Corey Tenold