He’s on his mobile phone. He’s standing near his BMW convertible. He’s walking up just-framed steps to check progress at the latest Renew Urban renovation—this one next door to Victoria’s Secret on King Street.
There’s always something throwback about developer Mark Regalbuto. That’s the point. His aim is to find and hold on to what’s lasting from earlier eras and make things relevant again. It’s a stewardship vision. People in Charleston get that, or sometimes they don’t, the grandson of Sicilian immigrants admits. “When we’re talking about adaptive reuse, it’s about people really understanding how this city was formed.”
Regalbuto moved to Charleston from Washington, D.C. in 1997 and he soon asked about the empty upper floors of MP Demetre Jewelers at 253 King Street. If he fixed up the space, could he rent it? Owner Milton Demetre said yes and then guided him as they worked together on what would be Regalbuto’s first historic renovation.
Today, Renew Urban typically has three or more projects underway across the Peninsula at any given time.
“There are thousands of opportunities still left in the city. Good projects, if you know where to look, and you believe in yourself.”
Regalbuto is continually amazed by the level of craftsmanship they uncover—a third-floor fireplace, a beautiful subfloor. “The challenge is understanding what, why, and how they did it before,” Regalbuto says. “And then figuring out how to make it modern without destroying the fabric of the building.”
That’s where his involvement with the American College of the Building Arts has been instrumental, and he plugs the students into his projects whenever possible. In this latest project at 258 King, graduates of ACBA are part of the team doing metalwork, stone carving, timber framing, masonry, and plaster to build out Club Monaco, an upscale retailer of Polo Ralph Lauren. The building will also house local purveyors and upper floor apartments.
“Charleston’s Building Arts grad’s are now working for Ralph Lauren,” Regalbuto says, smiling. “That’s upping the game.”
Words by Sandy Lang
Photo by Elizabeth Ervin