The Charleston County Board of Architectural Review recently gave conceptual approval for a new College of Charleston dormitory plan.
The dormitory is to house 400 students and would be located on lots behind King Street that presently are used for parking.
Not all agreed with the decision, though, voicing the opinion that the proposed structure was far too large for the site, too visible, even though it is behind King Street shops, and its proposed height would be a long blot on the city’s skyline.
It is possible that the city and the applicant were also surprised at the decision and the easy passage to approval. If there are zoning issues, and in this case there are, the plans normally go first to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
But because there may have been issues of height, scale and mass that would have made zoning decisions moot, the applicant sought the Board of Architectural Review hearing. For the record, the zoning height limit is 80 feet, which is the height of the proposed structure.
Viewers can see some of the diagrams submitted by the applicant here.
The applicant was listed as Charleston College Housing. It’s understood that the group is controlled by the McAlister development group, which has constructed dormitories for the College of Charleston.
The Beach Co. is the registered owner of the main lot on which the dormitory would be built. The College of Charleston has not yet made a decision on who will build the dormitory, and Charleston College Housing has not yet submitted its plan to the college.
The developer has said that to shape its plan and work out the economics, it needed the guidance of the Board of Architectural Review as to what was acceptable.
And although the board did not give the developer “carte blanche,” the ability to maintain the footprint and eight stories certainly supports the economics of the proposed dormitory.
The city said that a number of issues need to be resolved over the development – roof line, heights at certain viewpoints, elevator shaft and more. The developer also conceded that the plan was preliminary and much more work needed to be done.
There were many supporters of a student dormitory in attendance at the Dec. 11 board meeting. Some were property owners along King Street. Others spoke in support because the dormitory would take students out of the suburbs.
But as a board member noted, many of those rising to speak supported the idea of the dorm at its proposed location, but not necessarily the proposed development.
Only one board member, Phyllis Ewing, came out against the plan. She thought the proposed development was too big and voted against it.
The other members had no issue with the height and scale, though one said that the proposed development was at the threshold of what was acceptable.
Board of Architectural Review member Chris Schmitt said he had no problem with the height but rather what would be seen at the high points.
He urged the developer to become more aggressive and design something that was not generic. He also urged more attention to the walkways and connectivity at the ground level
Other members supported Schmitt’s view and some expressed unease about the straight roofline.
Proposals are due Jan. 19, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
Warwick Jones is a resident of Charleston and has been involved with a number of area organizations, including the Charleston County Greenbelt Advisory Board and the Preservation Society of Charleston.