Roper likely will scrap plan for six-story hotel

Traffic often backs up onto the James Island Connector at Calhoun Street. Improvements to the intersection are in the works through Charleston County's RoadWise program. Those plans include a dedicated lane for left turns off the connector onto Courtenay Drive.

Roper St. Francis' plan to build a six-story hotel on Calhoun Street across from the hospital in downtown Charleston likely has fallen through, but plans still are in the works to improve the flow of traffic in the city's medical district.

Andy Lyons, Roper's director of corporate communications, said, "the hotel concept has diminished in likelihood because of its complexity." Roper officials haven't made any final decisions on what they will do with the 1.07-acre site on the corner of Calhoun and Fourth streets, but they know they need more parking, Lyons said. "Right now we're figuring out cost and determining what is acceptable to the city and a good fit for Roper St. Francis."

The proposed hotel would have primarily served patients, their families and health care professionals in the medical district, according to Roper's application to the City of Charleston Planning Commission.

That district includes Roper Hospital, Medical University Hospital, Hollings Cancer Center and Ralph A. Johnson VA Medical Center. Several hotels are located nearby along Lockwood Boulevard and the Septima P. Clark Parkway.

Dr. Mike Hewson, president of the condominium board of the nearby Ashley House, said he was concerned about the impact of Roper possibly building a parking garage near the hotel that would have been very close to the Ashley House property.

Pile driving to build the garage could have damaged the Ashley House building, he said. He also had concerns about whether development in the area would mean more people cutting through the building's parking lot to get to Lockwood Boulevard or Calhoun Street. His concerns were "just common sense things," he said.

Charleston County's RoadWise program still has plans in the works to improve the flow of traffic in the area by making changes to the intersection of the James Island connector and Calhoun Street, said county spokesman Shawn Smetana.

The goal of the project is to help traffic flow better off the connector into downtown Charleston via Calhoun Street. Preliminary plans call for building an additional lane for through traffic off the connector onto Calhoun Street. Plans also include a dedicated left-turn lane from the Connector onto Courtenay Drive.

The county currently is in the process of acquiring right of way and completing the final design, Smetana said. It plans to seek bids to build the project by the end of 2014.

Tim Keane, planning director for the city of Charleston, said the city doesn't have specific plans for the area. But it has a vision for it.

The area is a unique gateway into the city, he said, and he expects it will be built out with "high-quality, more institutional architecture," similar to that of Roper Hospital.

The buildings will be aesthetically pleasing because, like Roper, they will be set back from the street and have nice landscaping, Keane said.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.