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Six-story Charleston Tech Center gets final OK from city board

The technology center planned for Charleston's rapidly developing Neck area secured the final blessing it needed from the city last week. 

The Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the Charleston Tech Center, which includes an office building and a parking deck at 999 Morrison Drive. The spot is tucked just east of Interstate 26 and north of an exit from the Ravenel Bridge

The Charleston Digital Corridor will be a permanent tenant and will likely take two floors of the building, Ernest Andrade, the corridor's director, said. The ground floor is set aside for restaurant space.

Renderings show a structure more akin to the Daniel Island campuses of the software firms Blackbaud and Benefitfocus. But for the quickly developing district in downtown Charleston, it will look different than what passersby are used to.

The office building will be six stories high with a covered rooftop terrace. Walking along Conroy Street, pedestrians will see an exterior wall with a design reading "Charleston Technology Center" in both English and binary code etched into its face. 

"It was an opportunity and a responsibility to set the stage for the development in that area," said John Hand, managing partner of Iron Bridge Capital, the developer of the project.

The designer, Eddie Bello of Bello Garris Architects, said approval flew through the three stages required by the Board of Architectural Review. Bello said he hopes the structure strikes a tone for the rest of the upper peninsula. 

The top five floors will be able to hold about 500 employees. No other tenants have been set in stone to occupy the new space yet.

"I think it's going to be the most handsome building on the peninsula," Andrade said. 

The 92,000-square-foot structure is on track to open in 2020. The neighboring parking deck will include 820 spaces. 

In the meantime, the Charleston Digital Corridor has moved into temporary offices at the intersection of Meeting and Mary streets, along with a handful of local tech startups. 

The corridor had to move from its longtime headquarters at Calhoun and East Bay streets to make way for a 100-room Hilton timeshare planned for that site.

Charleston Digital Corridor says it's finally ready to move ahead on new tech space

Ashley Hall gets Googled

Ashley Hall is one of 50 schools in the world Google selected for an education initiative that aims to foster a "culture of innovation."

The online search and advertising giant is calling it "Project Culture Shift."

The idea at the private, all-girls school is to prepare the young learners to succeed and be leaders in an ever-changing society, said Ed Dougherty, leader of the initiative at Ashley Hall. The project will connect students in Charleston with other schools around the world. 

Dougherty said he hopes the connections the students get will expose them to possible career paths and teach them how young women around the world are living. 

He said the project was only recently announced, and specific plans are still being hashed out. Dougherty previously was a certified trainer and innovator with Google and is a former technology specialist with the Charleston County School District.

The rest of the 49 schools are a mixture of public and private institutions, Dougherty said. 

“The Google Initiative shows how our students’ inquisitive, complex thinking will drive innovation. At a time when women’s voices have never been more important, this program amplifies their reach, both here in Charleston and on the global stage,” Ashley Hall head of school Jill Muti said in a statement.

New curricula and "learning environments" could be developed as a result of the program, the school said. 

Ashley Hall is set to celebrate its 110th anniversary this spring. It is one of only two independent girls schools selected to participate in the project with Google, which centers many of its philanthropic efforts on education. 

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Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.

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