The timeline of the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper parcel is convoluted and lengthy. Unless you have been tracking it diligently, it would be easy not to have the complete picture of what has happened. For your convenience, here are the highlights:
April 2013: The Beach Company began to seek public input for the redevelopment of its property at 310 and 322 Broad Street, also known as the Sergeant Jasper. Because of the scale and intensity of the development, early plans were met with concern by the community.
Several months passed while the Beach Company received input on the project.
September 2014: The BAR gave the Beach Company approval to demolish the existing Sergeant Jasper building. Interior demolition began the following month, but further progress has since halted and the building still stands.
February 2015: At the February 18 meeting of the Planning Commission, the Beach Company sought approval to rezone the Sergeant Jasper property into a Planned Unit Development (PUD). PSC opposed the PUD because of the many negative impacts it would have had on traffic, congestion, and parking in the area. The massive scale of what was proposed – 454 units, 700 parking spaces, and a 35,000 square foot grocery store – was incompatible with the surrounding historic residential neighborhoods. It appeared that the PUD did not reflect much of the previous months of community input with regard to desired scale and impact of the project.
An overwhelming turnout of concerned citizens prompted the Planning Commission hearing to be deferred to a special meeting on a later date. Before that hearing occurred, however, the Beach Company withdrew their plans for the PUD amidst widespread opposition and went back to the drawing board.
May 2015: At a special meeting of the BAR at Burke High School Auditorium, the Beach Company presented their new vision for the Sergeant Jasper redevelopment. This time, rather than seeking to rezone the property into a PUD, it based its design on the property’s existing 3X height district, an outmoded zoning designation allowing heights and setbacks incongruous with the adjacent historic neighborhoods. The result was an 18-story residential tower, retail shops wrapping a parking garage, and a large office building. PSC opposed this design because it was discordant with its surroundings by every objective measure. The BAR deferred the project on its height, scale, and mass, specifically as it referred to the tower.
June 2015: The June 3 meeting of the BAR took place at the Charleston Museum, where the Beach Company returned to unveil a slightly modified proposal. The tower was truncated to 13 stories, but the volume lost in height was added in mass to parts of the other buildings. After hearing lengthy testimony from scores of opposed citizens in front of a packed auditorium, The BAR, in a 3-to-2 decision, voted to deny the plan, citing its being out of keeping with the height, scale, and mass of the surrounding historic district.
July 2015: In response to the BAR’s decision, the Beach Company filed an appeal in circuit court, requesting pre-litigation mediation with the BAR and the City of Charleston. This little-known and seldom-used path of mediation allowed the Beach Company to negotiate directly with the City in a protected and confidential setting without public oversight and input.
The Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC) and Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) filed a joint Motion to Intervene in the mediation in an attempt to ensure that the public’s voice would not be excluded from the discussion. The neighborhood associations of Charlestowne (CNA) and Harleston Village (HVNA) did the same.
August 2015: PSC, HCF, CNA, and HVNA were granted the right to send representatives to the mediation. Mediation occurred over two weeks, with all parties sworn to confidentiality.
September 2015: On September 1, Tom Traxler, the mediator for the Sergeant Jasper BAR appeal, declared that the mediation was at an impasse because the parties were not able to reach a resolution. Following this, the Beach Company announced that it would continue to pursue its case in court, stating that the BAR exceeded its authority and violated its rights as an owner by denying the project. The City has publicized its intent to “defend vigorously” the decision and integrity of the BAR.
October 2015: The Beach Company released to the media a statement and a loose site plan showing how they would, if unsuccessful in their appeal of the BAR’s denial of their latest proposal, renovate the existing Sgt. Jasper tower and construct a 5-story parking garage and a 6-story commercial building with office and retail. These plans were not shared or discussed with the preservation community or the neighborhoods.
While the plans presented to the BAR on June 3 directed focus primarily to the tower, much of the concern voiced by the Preservation Society was related to the incongruous mass and scale of the parking garage and 6-story office building. The BAR rightly rejected that plan. Without seeing anything more than a conceptual site plan, PSC was unable speak to how this plan addresses those concerns.
November 2015: Circuit court Judge J.C. Nicholson issued a consent order affirming full legal standing for PSC and HCF. PSC and HCF officially joined the lawsuit between the City of Charleston and the Beach Company over the Board of Architectural Review’s June 13 decision to deny the Beach Company’s latest proposal to redevelop the Sergeant Jasper site.
At the November 24 City Council meeting, Mayor Riley made a motion for City staff to hold a meeting with the Beach Company, PSC, HCF, and the neighborhood associations to reach a compromise on the redevelopment of the Sergeant Jasper property. The Mayor stated that the original, lower height redevelopment scheme should be revisited but significantly scaled down. He further moved that if the parties could not arrive at a compromise, City planning staff would study changing the property’s zoning.
December 2015: As a result of Mayor Riley’s council-approved motion, members of City staff convened a meeting with the Beach Company, PSC, HCF, and the neighborhood associations. City staff facilitated a discussion to hold a constructive dialogue about the site’s future development.
January 2016: The City hosted four more meetings over the course of the month with the Beach Company, PSC, HCF, the neighborhood associations, and City staff. Despite the discussions to develop a compromise plan, the Beach Company submitted an application to the BAR for conceptual approval of a new, alternate plan which called for the retention of the 225 residential units of the existing tower and the construction of an additional 93,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, 53,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and a 490-space parking garage. Scheduled to be heard on January 27, the matter was deferred so that zoning issues raised in an appeal by Charlestowne Neighborhood Association could be heard by the Board of Zoning Adjustments-Zoning (BZAZ) prior to its review by the BAR.
By Tim Condo, Manager of Preservation Initiatives