PROPERTY MATTERS: Drayton Tower sold to NY investment firm; building permit issued for former Broughton Municipal Building hotel conversion; and city & partners to save Kiah House

Eric Curl/Aug. 26, 2023
Constructed between 1949 and 1951, the Drayton Tower was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as an example of one of the earliest and most important examples of International Style architecture in Georgia.

The New York-based owner sold a majority of the historic Drayton Tower apartment complex in downtown Savannah to another company based in the Big Apple.

Drayton Tower LLC, sold most of the 12-story mid-century property at 102 E. Liberty St. to Street Lofts LLC, a subsidiary of New York-based Benchmark Real Estate, for $37.5 million on Aug. 15, according to sales records. 

The purchase amounts to about 70 percent of the building, comprised of condominium units, including the ground floor commercial space, according to Benchmark Co-Managing Partner Aaron Feldman. The real estate investment company intends to add value to the property through cosmetic improvements to the interior and exterior common areas and upgrading the existing amenities, with minimal disruption to the tenants, Feldman said via email Friday. 

“We’re excited to add Drayton Tower to our portfolio and eager to unlock what we think is incredible potential in the property,” he said. “This project perfectly fits our investment strategy of acquiring unique, high-quality apartment communities in special locations that can be repositioned to create additional value over time.”

Most of Drayton Tower was purchased by Flank in 2012 and subsequently renovated by the development group into a luxury apartment complex. At the time, some of the building’s 4000 Solex windows, broken or replaced with Plexiglass, gave off the impression of a “once–handsome gent with missing teeth” as described by Jessica Leigh Lebos in her 2012 Connect Savannah column about her experience exploring the building at the time.

The 12-story “Drayton Arms” apartment building was constructed between 1949 and 1951 and the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as an example of one of the earliest and most important examples of International Style architecture in Georgia.

Building permit issued for hotel conversion of former Broughton Street Municipal Building

A building permit was issued Thursday for the owners to proceed with a more than 4-year-old plan to convert a former city office building into a luxury hotel. Whether that means work will actually begin remains to be seen.

The 6-story structure has sat vacant and unused since the city sold the historic mid-century building at 132 East Broughton St. and moved the revenue department out in 2019. As a result, the Chatham County Board of Assessors voted in April to remove a preferential tax assessment on the building after the plan to rehabilitate the structure for use as a hotel failed to move forward.

The building’s tax appraised value had been frozen at $4.4 million since 2020, after the city sold the property for $4.5 million in June 2019 to the previous owner, Columbia Ventures.

The “Broughton Haus” was to include 45 rooms with a ground floor restaurant and rooftop bar, according to Lynch Associates Architects description of the project. However, construction never began and Columbia Ventures sold the building to Colorado-based M/A Capital Ventures for $6.25 million in March 2022.

Ryan Diggins, who is the registered agent and manager of the building’s current owner, is also the founder and operator of The Ramble Hotel – a 50-room boutique hotel in Denver. Diggins declined through a spokesperson a request to discuss the project but did say work was expected to begin in September or October.

Jake Von Trapp, co-founder of Columbia Ventures, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Savannah and partners to save Kiah House

The Galvan Foundation and the City of Savannah agreed to purchase the Kiah House property, located at 505 W. 36th St., from the Historic Savannah Foundation and restore the dilapidated structure as a cultural and civic institution.

The city’s portion of the funding for this initiative will be subject to approval of the Savannah City Council, according to a city press release issued last week. Using its revolving fund that has helped save more than 420 historic buildings in Savannah over the years, HSF purchased the home, requested community proposals and selected these partners to restore the historic Kiah House and put it to use for the community.

In their proposal to HSF, the Galvan Foundation and the City of Savannah outlined plans to partner with the African Diaspora Museology Institute and “to restore the former Kiah House Museum building to the ‘Kiah Period,’ establish a Kiah-inspired creative arts program that embraces the community and its future, and thus reinstate its status as an important community asset.”

HSF pre-qualified five potential candidates as the nonprofit sought to find a “preservation-minded” buyer for the Kiah house who will rehabilitate the dilapidated structure and recognize the significance of Savannah’s first African-American founded museum.

The nonprofit did not identify the other candidates, at their request, but they were all locally based, according to Ryan Jarles, HSF’s director of preservation and historic Properties.

Once the buyer is selected, the closing should occur within 30 days, Jarles said in July.

Built in 1915, the house at 505 W. 36th St. in historic Cuyler-Brownville was transformed into a community museum in the late 1950s by the late artist and educator Virginia Jackson Kiah and her husband, Calvin Kiah, a former Dean of Education at Savannah State College. HSF purchased the property in 2022 after the structure had deteriorated as a result of a more than two-decade-old Chatham County Probate Case concerning the estate of Virginia Kiah, who died in 2001.

About The Author

Eric Curl

When not wandering the streets with his canine companion, Eric Curl is probably reading building permits and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters on to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at

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