Plans for tall hotel near bridge advance

Developers are eyeing a tall new hotel in peninsular Charleston where traffic leaves Meeting Street to get on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.

Still in its early stages, the project took a big step forward this week when Charleston City Council agreed to raise the height limit on the 600 Meeting St. parcel from 55 feet to 100 feet.

Mayor Joe Riley cast the sole vote against the increase.

Eddie Buck Jr. and Fred Whittle of Jupiter Holdings originally sought permission to build up to 120 feet, partly because the company's 1.2-acre site is essentially a small city block near the tall ramps leading on and off the Ravenel Bridge.

The city's Planning Commission recommended a 100-foot limit, and the owners of two properties just across Meeting and Huger streets, Joe Church and Ben Chase, told council members they supported the increase in height.

After the vote, Whittle said Jupiter has been in talks with hotel chains, but has not struck a deal with one. He said the city's vote will allow the company to proceed with a more specific design, one that would specify the number of floors and rooms.

City Council also unanimously agreed to expand the city's accommodations overlay zone to the site, a move less controversial than the height change.

Asked when was the last time he voted on the non-prevailing side, Riley said, "It's not often."

He then recalled voting in the minority on a Rutledge Avenue zoning case four years ago.

Riley said the tall hotel would set a precedent for changes in scale in the area -- one near the emerging North Morrison, or "NoMo," district.

"Something of a smaller scale would be more appropriate," he said.

But Riley praised the development team during the meeting and later said he knew City Council would approve the greater height.

Councilman Gary White asked the developers if the project's financial viability would go away without permission to build to 120 feet, and they said no.

Councilman Robert Mitchell, who represents the upper, eastern peninsula, said the developers had met with nearby neighborhoods and churches, who also agreed to support the height change.

The hotel site would make it the northermost large hotel in peninsular Charleston.

Farther south, between Calhoun and Spring streets, at least four large hotels are in some stage of development.