So do attitudes — and plans.
Thus, the Beach Company’s plan for its Sergeant Jasper property has, well, ascended.
As reported by architecturally astute Post and Courier colleague Robert Behre in Tuesday’s paper, the new plan is to construct a building “about 20 stories tall, much higher than the closed apartment tower that’s there now.”
The colossal (by local standards) upward shift predictably riles preservation groups and many downtown residents.
However, as Beach Company President John Darby put it in Tuesday’s story:
“The public wanted to give input — they got it. This has been going on a long time. There will be some strong opinions no matter what we do.”
No more Mr. Nice Guy.
Folks fuming over this upping of the design ante can’t say they weren’t warned — and not by just Darby.
My prescient Feb. 26 column, “Consider the Sgt. Jasper alternatives,” pointed out that Darby stressed “very flexible zoning” was already in place for the company’s Jasper land across Ashley Avenue from Colonial Lake.
Translation: Be careful what you wish against.
Back then, the Beach Company proposal was for four-story buildings along the street, with three more stories in the interior of the complex (for you non-math majors, that adds up to seven stories in the middle).
Now Joe Riley might join the escalating clash of wills. As Behre reported in Wednesday’s paper, the mayor said that not building anything taller than the current 14-story Jasper apartment building, which will soon be demolished, “would be an important consideration for me.”
OK, so any 20-story edifice — presumably with higher ceilings than the current Jasper? — would be way up there by Charleston peninsula standards.
Yet before launching what might turn into a costly (and losing?) legal fight against the Beach Company, again, consider the alternatives.
Sure, Charleston’s vintage architecture is an indispensable element of our historic city’s unique mystique.
And a 20-story apartment complex with office and retail space and a 780-car parking garage does sound out of scale with a Charleston Single House.
Then again, while 18th and 19th century structures have their special places in this special city’s ambiance, this is the 21st century — and the growing number of people moving here need places to live.
Plus, as DesignWorks co-founder Scott Parker, Darby’s brother-in-law, told us during that Feb. 25 meeting while pitching the earlier Jasper plan’s residential density: “The more people living there, the less people will be driving to work.”
That’s because if you live near enough to bike or walk to the medical district, the College of Charleston or along the King-Broad business district, you’re less likely to crank up a motor vehicle.
And rather than assuming that a towering 20-story Jasper would overshadow Charleston’s timeless-essence tourist-drawing power, consider these high-rising popular attractions elsewhere:
The Buri Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Hailed on its website as a “world-class destination,” the world’s tallest building is nearly half a mile high at 2,722 feet.
The World Trade Center, aka Freedom Tower, New York: At 1,792 feet, it edges out Chicago’s 1,729-foot Willis Tower (all of these numbers are subject to some dispute) as the tallest U.S. building — and shows evil-doers they can’t keep us down.
Bank of America Plaza, Atlanta: Way down around No. 60 globally, but tallest in the U.S. outside of New York and Chicago at 1,042 feet.
Atlanta, like Charleston, is a historic Southern city that thrives on tourism — and has serious traffic problems.
The new Jasper, though still in the “conceptual” stage, would probably be a mere 250-or-so feet. The current Jasper is 150 feet — 190 if you count the star at the top. The top of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is 573 feet. The spire at St. Matthew’s Church reaches 297 feet. The Dockside Condominiums peak at 204 feet.
But who’s counting?
Sure, the soft ground of our coastal community tends to give way under heavy burdens.
Hey, the 183-foot Leaning Tower of Pisa (not Pizza) brings plenty of visitors to that Italian city.
Meanwhile, just as circumstances, attitudes and plans change, times change, too.
So change your mind if you condemned my innovative Feb. 26 column ideas for the Jasper site, including a go-cart track, miniature golf course, pawnshop, tattoo parlor and shooting range. Those criticisms were not just hasty but hurtful.
Look forward, not backward, when considering what should go on the Jasper property — and how Charleston can climb to “world-class” status.
And before rejecting any offer, look out for what might come next.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.