BAR denies proposed King Street apartment building again

A rendering of the apartment building proposed for the corner of King and Spring streets in Charleston. The Board of Architectural has now rejected two renditions of the structure, including this one.

For the second time in two weeks, a proposed seven-story apartment building in downtown Charleston failed to clear initial approval of its architectural design.

In fact, the design was outright bashed.

The Board of Architectural Review, along with city staff and preservationists, didn’t bite their tongues during a 6.5-hour meeting Wednesday when several other projects were voted up or down as they considered the latest rendition of the imposing structure slated for the corner of King and Spring streets.

“The building’s design is not there because you yanked it out of the oven too fast,” BAR member Jay White said.

He was referring to the latest rendering, which the developer submitted for BAR approval five days after the previous rendering was rejected earlier this month.

“It’s not reasonable to throw this back on the agenda,” White said.

BAR member Janette Alexander called it the “same concept” submitted earlier with a “formulistic approach to satisfy the BAR.”

Board chairman William Applegate agreed.

“It looks like the same submittal from two weeks ago except for the facade on King,” he said.

The latest proposal softened the angular corner of the structure with a chamfer feature and moved the entrance to the middle of the building facing King Street, which the BAR liked.

It also showed other structural changes, including clipping off a top corner of the fifth story on the southwest corner of the building along Spring Street. The design shows five stories along the street with seven stories in the interior.

The corner-shaving move was in response to the board’s comments two weeks ago to help the structure blend in with the neighboring residential buildings along Spring Street.

It didn’t help.

“You still have to work that Spring Street area,” BAR member Jerome Clemons said.

Architect Steve Ramos of LS3P Associates Ltd., speaking for New York-based developer, The Spandrel Group, told the board, “We have made pretty substantial changes to the building. ... We tried to make something more commanding on that corner.”

He also said the ramp to the underground parking lot off Spring Street has been eliminated and an elevator was added for parking cars.

None of the changes seemed to matter.

“Nothing about this project merits approval,” said Chris Cody of the Historic Charleston Foundation. “The applicant wants you (BAR) to design the building for them. They are trying to gain approval through attrition rather than merit.”

Cator Sparks, the president of the Cannonborough-Elliotborough Neighborhood Association, also said the concept should be “scrapped.”

Home designer Andrew Gould called the latest proposal “dreary and depressing. It doesn’t look anything like King Street architecture. ... It’s cosmetically prettier, but the same building.”

Ramos welcomed all comments but disagreed that the concept was the same and was adamant that the height of the building will not change. The Preservation Society of Charleston wants the lower section of the building to drop from five floors to four.

City staff member Dennis Dowd listed several improvements over the original design, but called the corner “weak” and the building “flat.”

He recommended deferral of conceptual approval under the conditions that the developer restudy the project’s mass.

The BAR went one step further.

“I don’t think we have anything here we can defer to restudy,” Alexander said.

She moved for denial of the building’s height, scale, mass and general architectural direction. It passed unanimously.

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