Developer Hal Carter, right, says anyone interested in restoring old buildings has to be ‘hands-on.’
Hal Carter, owner of Hal Carter Construction, who was born and raised in Sylvester, has spent the last decade helping to improve downtown Moultrie by sharing his passion for historical buildings.
“I love history and old buildings are so representative of our history and past. There’s so much more history in a public building than a private building,” he said.
He also said renovating old buildings was not about making money because there were a lot more things a person could do to make money than restoring old buildings.
“You have to be willing to put in sweat equity and be hands-on. You have to be the janitor and the maid. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re in the wrong business,” he said.
Carter took what used to be the old Colquitt Hotel and renovated it into a beautiful commercial and residential space, while still retaining the historical attributes of the building. Colquitt Tower, as it is now known, has five apartments on its top floor and three floors of commercial space below.
“Having somebody like Hal Carter is such a positive for our community. He clearly is involved as a downtown property owner because of his love for historic buildings. People don’t renovate historic buildings for the money, they do it for the preservation of history and Hal is a perfect example of that,” said Main Street Director Amy Johnson.
Colquitt Tower, built in 1929, was formerly the Colquitt Hotel. It is now a beautiful residential and commercial space in downtown Moultrie.
Carter said that people will tell him what a historic building “used to be” and it always peaks his interest.
“It makes you want to try to salvage and save them. Historic buildings have a lot of character,” he said.
He started renovating old buildings in 1992 when he bought an old home in Sylvester and restored it. He then proceeded to buy several buildings in downtown Sylvester including a building that was the office for the doctor who had owned the old home Carter restored.
“You got a tangible piece of property that ties all of these lives together. We’re caretakers of the past and history,” he said.
In 2003, Carter bought and started renovation of the Colquitt Tower, which was built in 1929. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the largest historic trust in the United States, had approached him about buying it, and when he researched the history of the building, he became fascinated. He bought and worked on it in stages and has gradually filled it in. The first resident moved into one of the apartments at the end of 2004. There is a portion of the third floor that is unfinished and available for custom build-out for a customer. At this time, there are also two commercial offices available to rent.
“Hal didn’t have to come to Moultrie because he’s not even a resident here. He came because of his love of historic preservation and he is helping our downtown,” said Johnson.
The Moultrie Downtown Development Authority helped to connect Hal Carter Construction with what were at the time two relatively new financing programs. The Colquitt Tower project utilized the revolving loan funds from both the Georgia Cities Foundation and from the Department of Community Affairs. “The Georgia Cities Foundation is pleased to have been able to participate with the Carters on such an important and impactful project for downtown Moultrie,” said Mike Starr, President of the Georgia Cities Foundation. “The Colquitt Tower is an excellent example of the lasting legacy that the Carters are creating in Southwest Georgia.”
Currently, Carter is working on another project, The Carter Building, which will have the same set-up as the Colquitt, where apartments will be on the top floor. It’s a two-story historic building located across the street from city hall at 24 1st Avenue N.E. The apartments will be from 1,300 to 1,500 square feet and commercial space is available on the bottom floor, as well. The commercial spaces can be built-out to suit a customer’s specific needs. Carter said the apartments should be ready to rent early summer.
“Living downtown, you are getting a very unique space with a lot of architectural touches that are specific to a historical building. Where else can you rent an apartment with high ceilings and is beautiful yet still energy efficient,” he said.
Carter said he really tries to see how energy efficient he can make his old buildings and is constantly looking for the best ways to maximize the living space in the apartments he builds.
“We’re constantly tweaking everything we do. To maximize your space, you have to plan, plan, plan and then plan some more,” he said.
“Hal is such a joy to work with because his mind is always turning about what businesses he can bring in,” said Johnson.