The Board of Architectural Review provided their strong support for the nine-story hotel set to replace the old, nasty library on King Street. And then they said they weren’t ready to accept it, deferring a decision to give the developers one more crack at the small stuff.

“It’s close to where we hoped it would be, but I don’t think you can let it go to final approval,” said board member Samuel Logan, who praised the building, but said that he wanted to see more excitement on the first floor.

A packed house came to hear the debate over the proposed nine-floor, 105-foot building, with half the room supporting a much-needed face lift to one of the few black eyes left on Marion Square, while the other half support development, just a much smaller development. It’s the difference between a Charleston landmark and another boutique hotel.

“We must not loose site of the fact that this city is based on the scale of 18th and 19th century buildings,” says Robert Gurley, with the Preservation Society of Charleston, which lobbyed hard to have the board send this back to the beginning the approval process all over again. Obviously hoping he’d get something smaller.

But board members said the buildings height can be an asset by creating an appropriate border for Marion Square.

“Marion Square has been allowed to bleed,” Logan said.

If there was a consistent complaint, it was that the building didn’t look like Charleston. Logan said it looked like New York, Robert Demarco said it looked like a South Florida resort, and Chairman Craig Bennett said, “It’s got Florida, New York, and perhaps Chicago elements in it.”

Aside from a little spice for the first floor retail, board members also stressed that they wanted high-end materials used in construction..

Board member Robert Stockton highlighted what may be the most important concern about the building’s design: the pool.

“Are we sure we want to look across the square and see traveling salesmen in bathing suits.” Amen.

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