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2 downtown buildings, including ex-Art Institute, asking Charleston to open hotels

A look at the Noisy Oyster (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy)

The Carroll Building at North Market and East Bay streets downtown may become a 50-room hotel. File/Staff.

Two downtown buildings are scheduled to ask for city approval this week to use part of their properties as hotels. 

The Carroll Building, which most recently housed the Art Institute of Charleston, is seeking the OK to open a 50-room lodging. The corner building has been mostly vacant since the for-profit school closed its downtown campus last year. 

A corner storefront is occupied by the restaurant Hooked Seafood, which opened in the spring. Before that, the spot was occupied by another seafood joint, the Noisy Oyster

The building is at North Market and East Bay streets, near the historic City Market. The Preservation Society of Charleston has pointed to that area as a hot spot for hotel development. 

In addition to the 13 hotels already operating in the vicinity before 2014, nine more have either been opened or have received some level of approval from the city since then, according to a map compiled by the group. 

Plans for a boutique hotel at the Carroll Building were first reviewed by the city's Technical Review Committee in late June, but Tuesday will be the first time the request comes to the Board of Zoning Appeals

Hotel projects have to be granted special exceptions by the board before they can proceed. The BZA became a key part of discussions when the city's hotel task force was drafting new rules for hotel development in Charleston. 

The new rules, which were officially adopted in October, changed the criteria the board uses when evaluating whether to approve a hotel request. 

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But the request for the Carroll Building was submitted back in May, according to the city, before a first draft of that ordinance was given first reading, so the new rules will not apply. 

The second hotel request up for review had already appeared on the zoning board's agendas twice before, but the item has been pulled before the meeting both times.

Owners of the Meeting Street Lofts apartment building are asking to use 142 of its units as guest lodgings. The building, which is at Huger and Meeting streets, has a total of 264 residences. 

The lot is zoned for hotel use, but, like the Carroll Building, zoning board approval is required. 

By Monday, the agenda had been updated to indicate that the item was deferred for a third time, meaning the zoning board will not hear the request this week. 

When the the request first appeared on the agenda in mid-October, city planning director Jacob Lindsey noted that the city's recently approved hotel ordinance should limit any kind of hotel use at the Meeting Street Lofts.

The rules include a provision that prevents developers from displacing residential units on the peninsula. It also requires property owners who build hotels to pay a fee to fund affordable housing efforts in the city. 

The board meets Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. on the first floor of the Gaillard Center. The Carroll Building request is the first item on the agenda. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.

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