The Charleston peninsula will soon be awash in beer gardens, but one of the planned new drinking establishments, at 63 Spring St., might take a little bit longer than the others to open. At Wednesday night's Board of Architectural Review meeting, the board voted to allow the demolition of a vacant building on the site but unanimously shot down the owner's plans for a new building there.
The property is owned by Frederick Fields, but architect Dan Sweeney says the business owners are a group led by local business broker Marc Williams. Williams could not be reached for comment.
The proposed design included two buildings with a glass walkway connecting them and an open courtyard in the back, away from the street. The two buildings are one-story but include tall gabled roofs to meet the area's 25- to 50-foot height restrictions.
Opposition to the design began during the public comment period. "We feel it's much too suburban, sort of barnlike," said Robert Gurley, director of advocacy for the Preservation Society of Charleston. "We don't believe that it fits in the context of the neighborhood." City architect Dennis Dowd piled on, critiquing the building's "rural character" and saying that a two-story building "would better serve the area and would be more in spirit with the zoning code."
The board previously had rejected another design for the beer garden, so the owners switched to Sweeney of Stumphouse LLC to create the second draft that was submitted and rejected Wednesday. Stumphouse's other design credits include Oak Steakhouse and renovations at The Alley, and he says the design he presented Wednesday was "not emblematic of our work."
Sweeney said the important thing Wednesday night was that the BAR approved demolition of the old building, which previously contained a shop called Books, Herbs, and Spices and had fallen into disrepair while vacant. "We were locked into a corner from budgetary constraints and trying to utilize the old building," Sweeney says. Moving forward, Sweeney says he will look for inspiration from the historic auto-mile buildings along the Spring and Cannon corridor. He says the design will likely remain one-story, though.
"I look at that as a minor setback in what has been a long road, but it's going to be a very cool little addition to Charleston's F&B scene," Sweeney says.