Low-rise, high-rise no matter: Jasper plan still expected to draw a crowd

The Beach Company’s new plan for redeveloping its Sergeant Jasper property west of Colonial Lake includes a new building about six stories taller than its existing, abandoned apartment building. It also includes 118,000 square feet of office space and 80 luxury residences.

The last time the Beach Company’s Jasper project was scheduled for a public review, so many people tried to attend that the city cancelled the hearing because the meeting room was too small.

That was in February, when the company planned three low-rise apartment buildings with 454 units, plus a grocery store that stayed open 24 hours a day.

The plan going before the city’s Board of Architectural Review at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday is markedly different. There is no grocery store and only 80 luxury apartments, but a lot more office and other retail space, and a plan for a building that could look 20 stories tall, once the ground level parking and utility penthouse are added in.

Perhaps the only things the two development plans have in common are a mixed use and an even more mixed reception.

That’s why the city has taken the unusual step of moving Wednesday’s Board of Architectural Review meeting from 75 Calhoun St. to Burke High School’s auditorium.

Dramatically redoing the plan has not won over many. A joint statement from eight downtown neighborhood groups noted they strongly oppose it.

The residential tower would be far higher than St. Michael’s steeple, “and the entire complex would be about twice the size of The Cigar Factory,” the statement said.

While the height is technically allowed under current zoning — a separate Planning Commission meeting is set for May 18 to discuss if that should be changed — the neighborhoods said adding another high-rise to the city’s skyline is incongruous with the character of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Historic Charleston Foundation also announced its opposition to the latest plan and noted that since 1974, the city’s plans have called for protecting the city’s skyline of steeples.

The existing Sergeant Jasper apartment building, which would be torn down under the plan, is 14 stories.

“Just because a poor planning decision was made in the late 1940s to allow the construction of the existing Sergeant Jasper building does not mean that we need to repeat, or indeed intensify, this prior mistake,” the foundation’s statement said.

The Beach Company came up with the new high-rise plan after public opposition to its original plan — one that it had spent several months devising with input from neighbors and city planners.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.