It has been difficult to sort out facts in the controversy over the proposed Sergeant Jasper Planned Unit Development (PUD). However, based on data and visual material released by the developer, the Beach Company, it seems that the proposed project is too big for the site.

The 6.4 acre site at 310 Broad Street is now occupied by the Sergeant Jasper apartment building, built in 1951. The Jasper is a competent representation of apartment building architecture of its period, but its 14 stories always have been out of context with its neighborhood of low-rise buildings. It should never have been built at that location, and few will be sad to see it go.

The redevelopment plan calls for most of the 6.4 acre site to be covered by buildings. The buildings would be four stories in height along Broad and Barre streets and facing Moultrie Playground, with a portion in the middle of the site rising to seven stories.

In addition, large areas, shown in the site plan, are designated as “elevated terrace space.” That is not explained in the PUD proposal, but renderings provided by the Beach Company seem to indicate it as one-story construction, with a flat “terrace” roof.

The same site plan designates 2.2 acres as “urban open space.” That is billed as 34 per cent of the site. That includes half an acre of open space on the west side of Barre Street, half an acre stretching from the south terminus of Gadsden Street to Broad Street, designated as a sight corridor. It includes a .44 acre tract of marsh land which could not be used anyway. The rest includes designated “promenades” which appear to be widened sidewalks.

The proposal calls for 454 residential units (double the number in the existing building), 25,000 square feet of retail space (a proposed grocery), and parking proportional to those numbers. That is a lot of people, groceries and cars to cram into 4.2 acres of buildings.

Further damage to Charleston’s historic skyline is at stake in the proposal. Most of the buildings in the surrounding area are two to three stories in height, and most of them are of historic and architectural importance.

The strategic and highly visible site requires careful consideration, not only in terms of height and density, but also in terms of architectural design.

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No architectural design has been submitted for review yet. So far, the Beach Company renderings show a kitschy collection of pseudo-historical references. The site deserves higher quality architecture.

Robert P. Stockton

Montagu Court