Sergeant Jasper apartments demolition could be within next two years

John Darby, president and CEO of The Beach Co., talks Wednesday with Caroline Ragsdale (center) and Ann deSaussure about a project that will see the eventual demolition of the Sergeant Jasper apartment building and redevelopment of the area. Buy this photo

The towering Sergeant Jasper apartment building next to Colonial Lake downtown could be demolished as soon as 2015.

But in the meantime, the Beach Co. owners are looking for a rezoning that would greatly alter the appearance of the corner.

Instead of replacing the old 14-story building with another high-rise, developers want to put in a mix of six-story apartments and businesses covering much of their Broad Street-Lockwood Boulevard footprint.

In tandem, across Barre Street in a vacant lot known as St. Mary’s Field, would go a four-story structure of similar type. The Beach Co. owns that property as well. If the zoning change — from the current “limited business” to “mixed use” isn’t approved by the city of Charleston — then Beach officials say the alternative could be another massive commercial high-rise on the spot containing mainly office space and just a few upscale apartments.

“We just don’t think that’s the way to go,” said Kent Johnson, vice president of development with the Beach Co.

Johnson’s comments came during a meeting Wednesday with about 40 area residents, including from the Harleston Village Neighborhood Association. When construction is completed, as many as 800 people — and their cars — could one day be living in the area, the Beach Co. said.

Johnson also estimated that if all the zoning changes and city approvals are granted at quick pace, the Sergeant Jasper could be demolished as soon as the spring or summer of 2015.

Currently, up to 300 people live inside the 221 units of the 1950-era building, including students, professionals and retirees.

The Beach Co.’s plans weren’t immediately welcomed by some locals who attended the meeting.

“My concern is that this whole area is going to be (overrun) with car issues and that it’s not going to be pedestrian friendly anymore,” said Sarah Owens. She added that the area already routinely floods and adding months of construction equipment is going to make living much worse.

“It’s suffocating for me,” said Charleston resident Caroline King about the prospects of new apartment buildings cluttering the Broad and Lockwood intersection. While the city and the Beach Co. have been discussing how to redevelop the site for about 10 years, the first public discussion of the idea will be at Wednesday’s city planning commission meeting.

And while the design for the new buildings would come later, about 15 percent of the housing created would be set aside as “workforce housing,” which in Charleston could mean people making around $50,000 a year, Johnson said.

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