After incurring the wrath of many lower-peninsula residents with its initial development plan for the Sergeant Jasper apartment tower site, the Beach Company unveiled a new plan Monday that is significantly taller, has fewer apartments, includes extensive office space, and does not include a grocery store.
According to a press release sent out Monday afternoon, the new plan includes "80 luxury residential units, approximately 118,000 square feet of premium Class A office space, and 40,350 square feet of neighborhood retail."
Unlike the previous plan for the site, which required Planned Unit Development zoning, the Beach Company will not have to seek a zoning variance from the city for the new plan. Beach Company Vice President of Development Dan Doyle says the company has submitted its new plans to the city's Technical Review Committee and will likely appear on the committee's April 23 agenda, which has not yet been released. After that, the only major regulatory obstacle will be gaining approval from the Board of Architectural Review.
Asked whether the Beach Company planned to seek further input from the community, Doyle said, "We like to think we've gone through that process. We spent a tremendous amount of time and effort getting input, going through and talking to different groups, and I think what this plan reflects is the incorporation of a number of those comments."
Jay Williams, president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association and a critic of the original redevelopment plan, said Tuesday morning that he had not had a chance to review the new plan yet. Kristopher King, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, also told the Post and Courier Monday that he had just seen the new details for the first time. "Obviously, it really does bring up a lot of questions," King told the P&C. "We need time to review this."
First, about the apartments: The existing Sergeant Jasper Apartments include 221 residential units, and the original redevelopment plan would have more than doubled that number to 454. The newly announced plan includes just 80 residential units, which Doyle says are currently planned to be for rent, not to own. One facet of the original redevelopment plan that has been scrapped is a provision for "workforce housing," or apartments that are affordable for households making 80 to 125 percent of city's median family income. The new development plan includes no such provision.
"I think you've got to go back and look at what that previous plan included," Doyle says. "It was primarily a request to rezone from commercial to residential use, and it included 454 units, of which a component was allocated for workforce housing, which we didn't have to do under that plan. So when that went away, we have to go back to what the underlying zoning is for the property, which is primarily commercial."
One common complaint among neighbors of the Sergeant Jasper was that the original development plan did not include sufficient parking for its 454 units and the 24-hour grocery store that was planned at the time. Neighbors and the Preservation Society of Charleston voiced their concerns that parking would spill over onto already residential streets where spaces are already scarce.
The new development plan includes 780 parking spaces in a hidden six-level garage, which Doyle says should be more than enough for the building's office, retail, and residential uses. "They were concerned with parking not being sufficient, so we're taking that out of the equation here," Doyle says.
The Beach Company's original redevelopment plan included a 24-hour grocery store that was up to 35,000 square feet in size. The new plan does not include a grocery store. Instead, it has 40,350 square feet of what Doyle describes as "neighborhood retail." A 24-hour grocery store would not be permitted under existing zoning for the site.
"Ideally, we would like to have neighborhood convenience-oriented retail as part of this development," Doyle says. "That may include a convenience store or a small gourmet market of some sort. But I don't think it was ever part of the plan to include some large superstore grocery operator. Whether that was the impression someone left with, I can't make that determination. I can say that will not be part of this development."
The existing Sergeant Jasper tower dwarfs its neighbors in the Historic District. The Beach Company's website originally claimed that the tower is 150 feet tall, but when asked about its height today, Beach Company spokesperson Melanie Mathos said it was 190 feet tall — including a star of Christmas lights that sits on the roof. (In a follow-up email, Mathos wrote, "The 150' is to the roof, then there is mechanical penthouse with star on top of that.") The new Sergeant Jasper, according to Mathos, will be 214.5 feet tall at the top of its penthouse floor.
Whereas the previous redevelopment plan consisted of a cluster of three buildings that spread across the Beach Company's 4.2-acre parcel, the new plan calls for a single tower that takes up just 49 percent of the parcel, according to Doyle. The remaining 51 percent of the land will be devoted to access drives, landscaped areas, and walking paths, Doyle says.
"The garage really forms the basis for the development, and then the office component, the retail, and the residential are all tied in and are integral to that garage," Doyle says. The building will include 18 stories of residential units, with no residential units on the bottom floor and an additional top floor for a penthouse and elevator mechanical rooms, bringing the total height to 20 stories, according to Doyle.
A parcel near the corner of Lockwood Boulevard and Broad Street known as St. Mary's Field will remain undeveloped, according to Doyle. "That will be another day that that gets addressed," Doyle says.
At one point, the Beach Company said they wanted to put a 60,000-square-foot office building on the Sergeant Jasper site, but company officials said they withdrew that idea before creating its original redevelopment plan when they heard negative feedback about it at community input meetings. As a result, the original redevelopment plan included no office space at all. The new redevelopment plan includes significantly more office space — 118,000 square feet of it.
"What we are proposing conforms to the existing zoning on the site," Doyle says.
According to Doyle, the office space will include scenic vistas of the Ashley River and will be "one of those unique office spaces in Charleston."