by Paul Bowers
The Beach Company has withdrawn its request for a zoning change to build a 454-unit residential development and a 24-hour grocery store on the site of the Sergeant Jasper apartment building.
Redevelopment at the Broad Street site has become a hot-button topic in the surrounding neighborhoods of Harleston Village and South of Broad, where many residents feared it would bring traffic congestion, overflowing parking, incongruous architecture, and an increase in the number of rental properties, among myriad other woes.
Beach Company Vice President Kent Johnson says the company decided over the weekend to withdraw its application for Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning.
"In general what we realized was that the public discourse had become so emotional and so heated that we really weren't coming up with any kind of a consensus on what the right thing to do was," Johnson says.
Nearly three weeks ago, so many downtown residents showed up at a Planning Commission meeting to weigh in on the zoning request that the decision had to be postponed and the hearing had to be relocated to a larger venue. The hearing had been scheduled for March 16 at Burke High School, but now that meeting has been cancelled.
The Sergeant Jasper site is currently zoned Limited Business, a mixed-use category with a focus on commercial development. The existing 14-story apartment tower, which is slated for demolition, has 221 units, and even if the zoning doesn't change, the Beach Company would be allowed to build that many residential units under a grandfather clause, Johnson says.
Until today, the Beach Company was seeking approval from the city for Planned Unit Development zoning at the 6.6-acre site. The company planned to build two four-story buildings and one seven-story building with built-in parking garages and 454 rental apartments. The zoning change would also permit the Beach Company to allot 35,000 square feet of commercial space, enough to attract a 24-hour grocery store to the neighborhood.
Johnson says he does not know what his company will propose next, but it has several options available.
"We're going to sit down and reassess and figure out: Should we build under the existing zoning, should we modify the PUD, should we go back to a more traditional zoning category? Because obviously our best shot was not in keeping with what everybody else wanted to see," Johnson says.
The Preservation Society of Charleston, a vocal opponent of the original PUD zoning plan, could not be immediately reached for comment.