The latest redevelopment plan for the Sergeant Jasper site now has two of its three necessary approvals from Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review – Large.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday night to grant preliminary approval for the project, despite opposition from preservation groups and neighbors.
The Beach Co. is planning to tear down the 14-story Sergeant Jasper Apartments building at 310 Broad St. and replace it with a massive, mixed-use development. It’s expected to include 222 multifamily units, 78,000 square feet of office space, 22,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and 536 parking spaces enclosed in a garage.
Joe Antunovich, of Chicago-based architecture firm Antunovich Associates, said the project, which he designed, was inspired by existing tall buildings in the Charleston area, including the People’s Building at 18 Broad St and the Francis Marion Hotel at 387 King St.
One of the hot-button issues during the meeting was Antunovich’s proposal to construct the building using architectural precast materials. Instead of masons laying brick and stone at the site, the company plans to have the masons place the brick and stone into custom-made molds and panels inside a shop. Once completed, those panels would be assembled and installed at the site.
Antunovich said the precast process makes more sense than having masons work more than 100 feet up on the side of the building.
Kristopher King, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, said he was concerned with the concept of using precast panels, especially on lower levels that are visible to people entering or exiting the building.
“We really hope that the craft aspect of the masonry is not removed by doing this,” he said.
King encouraged the board to consider every detail of the building because “it’s going to be measured over decades, not years.”
“From a context perspective, this is the tallest, largest, most impactful project to ever come before this board,” he said. “I would also argue that there’s never been a building that, once built, is going to be more scrutinized by the general public than this building here. So getting it right is essential — not only essential to the quality of this building but maintaining the public’s trust in this process.”
Dan Doyle, vice president of development at The Beach Co., emphasized that the brick and stone used in precast construction are installed by hand by skilled tradespeople.
“The only difference is they’re doing it in a controlled environment,” he said. “They’re not out doing it in the rain, where there could be imperfections and so forth.”
Jacob Lindsey, director of the city’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said the city staff is concerned that the precast panels “may look too perfect,” which BAR member Jay White echoed.
White suggested the company “monkey around with ways to actually disturb that a little bit.”
“This type of construction approach, this type of finish is completely legitimate,” he said. “It’s completely valid. I don’t think it’s a poor facsimile of something better. It’s been something that’s been done for probably 80 years with a great deal of success.”
BAR member Jerome Clemons said he supports the use of precast as well.
“This project probably will become a model for how we might proceed with other buildings that might strike the size that The Jasper has,” Clemons said.
After the meeting, Beach Co. CEO John Darby said the company was pleased with the vote.
“The BAR, they were spot-on and had great comments,” Darby said. “They appreciated what we’d done to get the approval, and we got approval.”
He expects final plans for the development to go before the board for approval in the summer.