Charleston's Board of Architectural Review voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the design of the replacement building on the long-contested Sergeant Jasper site.
The preliminary approval means the project at 310 and 322 Broad St. can move forward as scheduled, although the board will require architects to tweak some design details before they bring the plan back for another review.
Architect Joe Antunovich of Antunovich Associates of Chicago presented the latest design of the building, which he said was inspired by several Charleston fixtures like the People's Building on the other end of Broad Street, as well as the Francis Marion Hotel.
The large building - one of the largest the board has ever reviewed - includes ground-floor retail spaces totaling 25,000 square feet, and a 75,000-square-foot office space along Barre Street.
It will house 222 residential units, a slight reduction from past proposals. That has allowed for more amenities, including a fifth floor terrace and outdoor pool, as well as a fitness center.
The Beach Company has worked for years toward a redevelopment plan for the site, consistently meeting stiff public opposition along the way. But after the height and mass of the project was settled through a court fight and city agreement, that opposition is ebbing. Only four people spoke during the board's comment session Wednesday - two residents of the Charlestowne Neighborhood and two representatives from the city's main preservation groups.
Each of them urged the board to carefully study the proposed materials, such as the decision to use cast stone rather than natural stone.
"It’s just critical that this project achieve the highest level of excellence in the details," said Kristopher King of the Preservation Society of Charleston. "Any mistake is going to be magnified."
Antunovich said he recently showed city planning staff a sample of the cast stone alongside a piece of limestone, and that hardly anybody could guess which one was the natural stone.
"It's almost imperceptible, the difference," he said.
Board member Jay White said the building's facade might actually look too perfect.
"I would suggest you monkey around with ways to disturb that a little bit," he said.
The project has been controversial since The Beach Co. introduced plans two years ago to raze the 159-foot-tall, 1950s-era apartments and replace it with a low-rise development. After residents and preservationists fought the concept as too dense, the company then reverted to a high-rise mixed-use building, which is allowed by the city's zoning. A legal fight ensued, but mediation did not result in a different design.
The Beach Co. President John Darby has said the company expects to raze the existing 1950 apartment building sometime this summer.