Advocacy Alerts

Advocacy Alert: Demolition and New Construction on BAR-L Agenda

preservation-admin , March 7, 2022

Left: Previous streetscape photo, showing 73 and 75 Washington before their demolition; Right: current photo of 77 Washington.

A concerning request for demolition of a Charleston single house at 77 Washington Street to make way for a larger development is first up on Wednesday’s agenda. The property has a long history of neglect, but remains standing as the lone surviving residence on this stretch of block. Constructed circa 1857-1869, the building first housed a Swedish immigrant family, and later served as part of the African American-owned and operated Brooks Motel.

In 2009, the owner requested to demolish this building, as well as the two neighboring structures at 75 and 73 Washington Street. The Preservation Society strongly opposed the application, and the BAR agreed, denying demolition. Shortly after, in 2014, while the City was battling the owner in Livability Court over neglect citations, the buildings caught fire and one of the walls at 73 Washington collapsed. In the end, the City permitted the demolition of its neighboring buildings but required the stabilization of 77 Washington, which has allowed the building to remain in a sound condition.

We will again advocate for the BAR to deny the demolition request, given the considerable amount of resources that have been put towards the preservation of 77 Washington and its unique contribution to our city’s cultural history. There have also been many recent examples of new construction projects that integrate smaller-scale historic structures and a similarly successful project could be accomplished here.

Left: rendering of proposed building for George Street Parking lot site, Society Street elevation; Right: rendering of proposed building for 609 King Street, known as Liberty Senior Living. Source: March 9, 2022 BAR Image Overview

Designs for two major new construction projects are also up for conceptual review. The Board will have its first glimpse of the project proposed for the George Street parking lot site, located midblock between King and Meeting Streets. After receiving approval in July 2021 to rezone to Mixed-Use/Workforce Housing, plans are progressing to BAR and show two buildings proposed: one facing George Street containing apartments, and one facing Society Street containing condos and a 50-room hotel. Given the site’s close proximity to the historic 2-and 3-story buildings along King Street, our primary objective is to ensure the design respects the scale and character of the context.

Coming back to the BAR for another crack at conceptual approval is the Liberty Senior Living project. Many are likely familiar with this site as the location of the one-story Art Deco building at 609 King Street. Last year we successfully convinced the Board to require preservation of this historic building and are pleased to say it is proposed to be featured as part of the new design. The project received a combination of denial and deferral in January due to significant issues with the building’s size and architecture, and is now returning with a revised proposal. Our focus will be how the new construction can most sensitively engage the historic building, as well as the appropriate treatment of height and massing for this site that transitions from King Street to the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood.

Conceptual review is the most crucial phase of the design review process – a building’s fundamental elements including height, scale, mass and architectural direction are locked in at this initial stage. Once conceptual approval is given, design changes are minimal, as subsequent reviews only focus on materials and details. That’s why we take these proposals very seriously, and commend the Board for holding the line when a proposal misses the mark. These massive projects present significant, lasting impacts to our city’s architectural landscape, and it is critical to get them right. 

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