Plans for a 100-room timeshare on the site of the busy Starbucks cafe at Calhoun and East Bay streets in downtown Charleston got a crucial thumbs-up this week.
The city's Board of Zoning Appeals voted 5-0 Tuesday to grant a special exception for the five-story project, which would also displace the adjacent Charleston Digital Corridor buildings. Chairman Leonard Krawcheck recused himself.
There was no opposition from the public before the vote.
Zoning administrator Lee Batchelder said the city has been looking forward to a facelift at that high-traffic corner, and plans for east Calhoun Street have included a hotel at that site since about 2009. As far as the city is concerned, there's no difference between a hotel and a timeshare.
The property will be called Liberty by Hilton Club, a timeshare for Hilton vacation club members.
Vangie Rainsford, president of the association that represents the adjacent Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood, praised the developers for the way they worked with residents through the process.
"Specifically, there will be no rooftop bar," she said, referring to the battle with The Dewberry Hotel on Meeting Street. The board denied a rooftop bar for that property after residents said it would cause too much noise. Its owner is suing the board and city over the decision.
A major concern of the East Bay project was not increasing traffic in the neighborhood. Plans include removing the exit onto Charlotte Street and forbidding a right turn out of the lot onto Alexander Street. As a result, the project would reduce traffic into the neighborhood, according to the plans.
Plans also include converting a historic house at 80 Alexander St. from office use back to residential, as well as building another house on the parking lot beside it, Batchelder said.
The Strand Capital Group, a timeshare and condominium builder based in North Myrtle Beach, is the developer. The property is owned by Mazyck Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Rivers Enterprises, which announced last year that it was looking for a buyer.
The new project is named after the Liberty Tree, the site of the first reading of the Declaration of Independence that led to the Revolutionary War, according to a plaque at 80 Alexander St. that marks the site.
The Board of Architectural Review will have to approve the request to demolish the commercial buildings, which are not considered architecturally or historically significant.