Tennessee-based developers of a proposed 15-story, $60 million downtown student housing tower agreed Wednesday to meet again next week with city planners skittish over its size, and the university raised the prospect of offering an alternate site.
The University of South Carolina will offer EdR “alternatives,” USC spokesman Wes Hickman said, including changes in the design, scope and possibly a different location for the tower that is proposed for near the Horsheshoe. Hickman did not elaborate.
The Columbia Design Development Review Commission was uncomfortable enough with the proposed tower at Main and College streets that it withheld final approval of the project June 11, remanding the dispute to a subcommittee for further study.
During a two-hour subcommittee review Wednesday, commissioners raised concerns about the building’s height, noting that it would be out of proportion with other buildings in the area, including the State Capitol and the Gressette and Blatt office buildings on the State House grounds.
Commissioners also worried about the project’s density – 704 beds in a 246-apartment tower with a seven-story parking garage for 550 vehicles – all on a 1.26-acre site south of the Capitol between Assembly and Main streets.
USC, which surrounds the property, opposed the project as initially proposed. The tower would disrupt the area’s skyline and would be out of step with the university’s long-studied plans for the area south Main and the Innovista.
Developers EdR and city planners, meanwhile, came to the meeting eager to work out a solution.
But shrinking the apartment tower too much would make the project too costly to undertake, said Rodney King, EdR vice president of real estate development.
“We want to be clear,” King said to the commission. “If we don’t strip off several floors from the building, are we doomed from the start?”
EdR was conciliatory and said they had gone back since last week and reconsidered some design aspects of the tower, including facade changes, landscaping and setbacks, but was largely noncommittal about cutting down the height of the tower.
“If you could find a way to lower the building, that would help some commissioners in terms of a vote,” said commissioner Tom Savory, an architect.
“It’s a lot larger than anything over there,” commissioner Bowen Horger said, explaining his vote against green-lighting the project last week. “And a neighbor who owns a lot of property over there is also a factor,” he said. “We’re in kind of a gray area here.”
The full commission last week voted down the housing project even though there are no height limitations regarding the C-4-zoned area, where a Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry student center currently sit. The project is to face a commission vote at the July meeting. The tower already had won a variance from the city Zoning Board to exceed the area’s 150-person per acre density cap.
Reach Burris at (803) 771-8398