Major Questions in Rezoning of Courier Square Phase III
preservation-admin , October 3, 2023
Planning Commission and the public will get their first glimpses this week of the major plans to redevelop the site of the former Post and Courier headquarters on King Street. Known as Courier Square Phase III, this project represents a huge opportunity to create new public space worthy of Charleston’s most important commercial corridor.
Planning Commission Information-Only Meeting
Oct. 5, at 4 p.m.
134 Columbus St. (Former Post and Courier building)
View Agenda (meeting recording will be made available afterward, according to city officials)
This meeting is for information only — no vote will be taken. The earliest the project could be voted on is at the Oct. 18 regular Planning Commission meeting.
Site of proposed Courier Square Phase III development on upper King Street, between Columbus and Line Streets (Credit: Google Earth)
Our initial view is that the project proposes the types of tangible public benefits that are fitting for a Planned Unit Development. But it is also plain that significant scrutiny will be needed as the application proposes some of the tallest buildings to be built in this area of downtown.
To enable the proposed 10- and 12-story buildings on site, the project’s rezoning request also requires a revision of the city’s previously agreed-upon height limitations. We are naturally concerned about broader implications of changing city height maps to facilitate a project that would significantly deviate from established planning policies.
Courier Square Phase III will sit at the corner of King and Columbus streets, the former site of The Post and Courier (Credit: Google Street View)
No question: There will be dense development on this site. Bound by King, Columbus, and Line streets, it is designated for some of the most-intense development south of the Crosstown Expressway. Smart density at scale can go a long way to solving some of Charleston’s most pressing affordability challenges, including housing and space for locally serving businesses.
The site plan for Courier Square Phase III proposes large-scale buildings alongside new public spaces on the interior of the development (Credit: City of Charleston Technical Review Committee)
However, we cannot ignore the troubling trend of large-scale projects that seem impressive on paper but fail to deliver on public realm improvements initially promised to balance early-stage sacrifices on height and building mass.
That mistake cannot be made for this transformational development. We must press for assurances that new public spaces will be more than amenities for luxury housing and hotels, and buildings will respect our existing urban patterns.
Thankfully, the property’s local owner, Evening Post Industries, has kept an open mind on this project, and has some of the country’s best urban designers thinking through some of these challenges. Without doubt, there are creative and unique elements of this project that we are glad to see a development team considering, such as an affordable housing requirement and a new public “square,” described as a launching pad for the long-awaited Lowline project.
The Preservation Society appreciates ongoing discussions with the team and looks forward to working toward making this space an incredible public asset that will serve as a bookend for King Street.