By Dan Beaman, Virginia Bush,
Kristopher King and Katharine S. Robinson
Representatives from Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Harleston Village Association, Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston have been meeting in good faith with the City of Charleston and with the Beach Company in an effort to reach a compromise over plans to redevelop the Sergeant Jasper site. Former Mayor Joseph P. Riley initiated this series of meetings, and they have been continued by Mayor John Tecklenburg and facilitated by city staff.
At this point in the process, we believe that considerable progress has been achieved. In the view of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Harleston Village Association, Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston, the latest plans shared with us by Mayor Tecklenburg and city representatives on Feb. 12 are promising.
They are known as “Plan B.” We await more detailed drawings and information as this project develops and look forward to reviewing the details when they become available. From the outset of these facilitated discussions, our groups have been united and consistent in our call for any development on the site to be appropriately sized, compatible with the adjacent historic neighborhoods, and consistent with decades of city planning policies. We are united in our opinion that “Plan B” is a promising step in the right direction. The dedication of the entire property comprising St. Mary’s Field as a public park is a wonderful gesture from the developer, and several other elements of the plan are worthy of support, including the preservation of grand trees and the breaking up of the building massing over the site.
We are eager to resume talks with the city and the developers, as we are still firmly committed to the negotiation process. We remain dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for the development of this important gateway site. We acknowledge that the path forward is uncertain.
Currently, the developers are pursuing three different tracks: engaging in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the city’s Board of Architectural Review and the decision of the BAR to reject the “Chicago Plan”; submitting an alternate application to the BAR (the very entity they are suing) for renovation of the existing building and the addition of several other structures on the property; and negotiating a compromise with the city and with our four groups as interested stakeholders and representatives of thousands of constituents and homeowners.
Whatever the outcome of the other two tracks, we believe the plan that has begun to emerge out of a series of city-initiated conversations will yield the best outcome for the Sergeant Jasper.
Some unanswered questions remain, yet the plan is certainly worthy of pursuit. We are hopeful that all parties will continue to work through the issues surrounding the development of this site as we believe compromise is best for our city and for this important gateway parcel into the Old and Historic District.
And we say this with one voice.
Dan Beaman is president of Harleston Village Association, Virginia Bush is president of Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Kristopher King is executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, Katharine S. Robinson is executive director of Historic Charleston Foundation.