[image-1]Renovations and additions to Charleston’s Old City Jail gained an initial round of approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review, opening the door for the building’s future use as an office space.

Going before the BAR Wednesday evening were Jason Ward of Landmark Enterprises and representatives from Liollio Architecture to discuss plans to secure the existing structure, as well as construct a new three-story elevator and stairwell at the rear of the jail. Ward estimates the total cost of the project to be around $7-8 million.

Leading up to Wednesday’s meeting, Ward called the proposed plans to use the former home of the American College of Building Arts as a commercial office space as perhaps the only way to finance preservation efforts for the crumbling building and its rich history.

“You can see the loss of mortar. You can see the crumbling of the masonry. Pretty much every building material that we have on this building is going to need to be treated in some way, shape, or form,” said Alison Dawson with Liollio Architecture.

Built in 1802, the jail’s rear courtyard once served as a holding space for slaves awaiting sale, and in 1822, Denmark Vesey was imprisoned in the Old City Jail as he awaited his execution for a foiled slave revolt. During the Civil War, the jail housed Union prisoners, including members of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry — one of the first African-American combat units in the United States.

The proposal gained unanimous support from the architectural review board, who granted the project the first of three required rounds of approval. As a leader of preservation efforts with Liollio Architecture, board member Jay White recused himself from the vote. The board did ask that seismic studies be considered to assess the structural integrity of the jail, much of which was severely damaged in the Earthquake of 1886 and subsequently rebuilt.

The new plans for the Old City Jail also gained the support of local historic and preservation groups, as well as the Charleston Housing Authority, who served as stewards for the property after the jail was decommissioned in 1939.

“We are very supportive of this project. This is an incredibly important building that is in very bad shape … We’re very happy that Landmark has stepped up and is going to save this important piece of Charleston’s history,” said Christopher Cody of the Historic Charleston Foundation.