Atlanta developer John Dewberry is moving ahead with preliminary plans for a 120-room hotel to fill the long-vacant Mendel Rivers Federal Building near Marion Square.
Next week, the City of Charleston’s Planning Commission will weigh the first of a handful of zoning and design approvals necessary before redevelopment begins.
Dewberry purchased the more-than 2-acre site for $15 million in early 2008, including the seven-story building, constructed more than 40 years ago, as well as a large parking lot behind it.
The property is zoned for most any commercial use, says Yvonne Fortenberry, the city’s director for design, development, and preservation, but special permission is required for a hotel. She added that a hotel would fit with previously suggested uses. And, since the building is structurally sound, Fortenberry added the only major issue is asbestos.
Initially, many observers expected the building would be destroyed to advance broader development plans for the entire site, but the nonprofit Historic Charleston and other preservationists suggested potential developers and the city take a second look at its significance.
“Charleston represents a wide spectrum of architectural styles spanning several centuries, and this building represents another important chapter in the city’s architectural continuum,” Historic Charleston noted in a 2007 newsletter.