A high-profile Historic District building that recently housed the Art Institute of Charleston may become a boutique hotel.
The Carroll Building, a brick structure at North Market and East Bay streets, was listed for $22.25 million by the commercial real estate firm Avison Young last month.
The property, which is just steps from Charleston's City Market, already is within the city's accommodations overlay, meaning it's eligible for hotel development.
The city's Technical Review Committee, which reviews construction plans for new development projects, looked at an application Thursday for a 50-room hotel at the site. The committee directed the applicant, Mount Pleasant-based engineering firm SeamonWhiteside, to revise and resubmit its plan.
For a hotel to be built at the site, the project would have to be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals. All lodgings have to meet certain requirements to be granted the special exception which allows a hotel use.
Those requirements could be changing soon if proposed changes to the city's accommodations rules, which were given a first reading from City Council last month, are approved. The changes are scheduled to be reviewed by the city's Planning Commission in mid-July.
In recent years, the Carroll Building was the home of the for-profit Art Institute, which opened in April 2007. The school’s downtown campus closed last year.
The property has been mostly vacant since, except for a corner storefront where the Hooked Seafood restaurant opened in the spring. The spot was previously occupied by another seafood establishment, the Noisy Oyster.
The building is partially historic, with the oldest part of the structure dating back to the early 1900s.
Carriage rule deferred
Charleston's Tourism Commission decided Wednesday to delay a vote on a new regulation for carriage tours after hearing concerns from the industry.
The change, which was OK'd by a subcommittee earlier this month, would allow the city's Department of Livability and Tourism to temporarily suspend tours during cases of extreme weather and other emergencies.
The proposed change came out of an incident early last month when department director Dan Riccio decided to call off carriage tours for about an hour after seeing the area was under an extreme thunderstorm warning.
A coalition of three local carriage companies, Charleston C.A.R.E.S., formally appealed the decision, arguing Riccio didn't have the authority to do so.
Tyler Jones, a spokesperson for the group, told commissioners Wednesday that carriage operators have "serious concerns" about the proposed ordinance.
As the rule is written now, the Department of Livability and Tourism does not have the express ability to call off carriage tours, except in specific conditions involving extreme heat. Jones said the industry has a demonstrated history of shutting down tours when weather conditions are unsafe.
"This ordinance implies that we don't," he said.
Riccio defended the proposed ordinance, saying that he met with carriage industry representatives a month before the change came before the Tourism Commission. Riccio said he shared a draft of the revised regulation but didn't receive any feedback.
Since the city dictates where tour operators go — carriages are given specific routes from a city employee immediately before each departure — Riccio said he feels he "has a responsibility" to call off operations if passengers could be sent into unsafe conditions.