Charleston's Board of Architectural Review has given conceptual approval to the design of a new building at the corner of Meeting and Columbus streets where the parent company of The Post and Courier wants to build a mix of apartments, retail and commercial space.

The approval at Wednesday's meeting came as Mayor Joe Riley appeared at the session and gave an endorsement.

"This is a very important development in our city," he said of the project. He called the design "exemplary."

Evening Post Industries wants to redevelop 12 acres around the newspaper's downtown building. The first phase covers the open lot at Meeting and Columbus streets. The project has been dubbed Courier Square.

The plan calls for a mix of 75 percent ground-floor retail, with additional commercial space available on the Meeting Street side. The design would be in a European street block style.

On the back side would be apartments designed in brick, giving it a 19th century industrial mill look.

While a minority of three members voted against approval, board member Bill Wallace spoke in support, saying the design "fits in exactly" with that part of the city.

Wednesday's approval was the first of three the BAR has to grant as the project moves forward in the permitting process.

In all, up to 2 million square feet of residential, retail and offices could be added to the space around the newspaper property in the next 10 to 15 years.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.