[image-1]Once again, the members of Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review were presented with plans for the Sgt. Jasper site Wednesday. But although they were able to offer plenty of comments on how the current design for the proposed 336,000-square-foot development on Broad Street should be built, the choice of whether the project would advance further in the approval process had already been made.

Following a legal battle between the City of Charleston and Sgt. Jasper developers the Beach Company, both parties involved agreed to grant conceptual approval for the project plans, and in return, the developer will set aside nearby land for the construction of a park. But Wednesday’s meeting of the BAR was more than just a courtesy presentation. It was an opportunity for everyone to reacquaint themselves with what’s being proposed for the site and weigh in on the best possible way to move forward.

Architect Joe Antunovich started off his presentation to the BAR by saying he was disappointed to hear that some in the community believed the current design for the project had increased in size and height over the previous plan. Under the property’s current zoning, at least 70 percent of the mixed-use development must be residential.

According to Antunovich, the new plans for the Jasper site should be considered as a collection of buildings — residential, retail, and office space — and would stand at 159-feet in height at the uppermost penthouse. The number of residential units in the project is still being determined. Antunovich said the possible number of units could run from 208 to 324, but the new complex would likely fall in the lower part of that range. Antunovich was confident that his team will be able to provide floor plans and material samples when the developers return to the BAR for the second round of approval.

Addressing concerns of the overall size of the proposed development, city staff conducted an examination of the plans presented to the BAR Wednesday and concluded that although multiple changes were made to the designs, they did not find that the project had increased in height and mass. It was also noted during the meeting that the proposed site for entire complex has been shifted about 10 feet.

Heading into the next review round with the BAR, the applicants have been asked to provide more detailed renderings of the project and plans for all floor levels.
Chris Cody with the Historic Charleston Foundation spoke in opposition to the current plans for the Jasper site, voicing concern over the changes made to the project and saying that the previous design was superior.

“We know that the leadership of the Beach Company wants to develop the Sgt. Jasper into a world-class site with a building of superior architecture, as has been stated so many times in the media,” said Cody. “We feel that it’s paramount moving forward that the context of the site be paid attention to and that this complex of buildings not be simply designed as tall buildings, but rather as tall buildings that do their best to fit into the historic residential context of their surroundings.”

Kristopher King of the Preservation Society told the BAR that his organization supported their previous decision to deny the application for the Jasper project and reiterated a few of the board’s comments.

“The concern here is that you’re being asked to provide input, but we’re not really being shown enough to do so in a meaningful way,” he said, calling for renderings that provided clear examples of the project’s height and scale relative to its surroundings. “We felt there was perhaps more specificity to the landscape plan than the architecture.”

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Beach Company President John Darby released a statement acknowledging the concerns expressed by the BAR, but was somewhat critical of others who commented on the project, saying, “The goal of the meeting was to gather constructive commentary for the good of the project and ultimately what is best for Charleston. The unproductive commentary and false statements made tonight by preservation and special interest groups undermines the BAR’s expertise and interferes with the process, which leads to countless delays and unnecessary costs.”

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