Sgt. Jasper plan may stir ‘revolt’

Antiunovich Associates/LS3P/ProvidedThe Beach Co.’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.

A day after the Beach Co. stunned downtown residents and preservation groups with plans for what could be Charleston’s tallest building, some began to push back.

That included Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who praised the company for listening to residents’ concerns and revising its controversial plan for 454 housing units and an around-the-clock grocery on the Sergeant Jasper site.

Still, Riley said the new plan — a building about 20 stories tall, six floors taller than the existing structure — is too tall.

“I think that not building anything taller than that (the existing Sergeant Jasper building) would be an important consideration for me,” Riley said.

Others, such as Winslow Hastie of the Historic Charleston Foundation, were less restrained in their concerns about the new plan.

“There’s going to be a massive revolt,” Hastie said. “There’s an old developer trick – you bring in the biggest, baddest thing you can imagine and then hope it gets whittled down to something you can work with. Maybe that’s the strategy, but it’s only going to serve to rile the masses even more.”

The company previously sought a zoning change to allow 454 residences distributed among three buildings between four and seven floors tall. The company pulled that plan early last month after a sustained outcry.

The company’s latest redevelopment plan, which it unveiled Monday, has only 80 luxury units, 180,000 square feet of office space, retail space and a 780-car parking garage. It can be built entirely within the existing zoning, and the company needs only Board of Architectural Review approval. No BAR hearing date has been set so far.

While the BAR reviews height, neither Riley nor Hastie could recall an instance where the board reduced a proposed building’s height by several floors less than what city zoning allows.

The current Sergeant Jasper, a 1950s-era high-rise named after one of Charleston’s Revolutionary War heroes, is currently standing vacant and is expected to be razed this summer.

City Councilman Mike Seekings, who represents the surrounding neighborhoods, said he still was learning about the plan and thought many of his constituents were doing the same. “It’s been very quiet,” he said.

The Beach Co.’s proposed building actually has four sections, including a six-story parking garage, an office tower of about eight stories and a shorter residential tower about that same height. It also would include a tall tower of about 20 stories.

Hastie called the site’s 3-X height limit “a dinosaur” and said of the proposed building: “As far as I’m concerned, there are about 14, 15 or 16 stories that need to come off.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.