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Spartan

Will Charleston remove its height restrictions?

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I just edited this article that was in the Charleston Post and Courier... link at the bottom.

I think that it would be a good idea to loosen the height restrictions in Charleston. a few tall buildings won't ruin its charm. It might even make sore some prime real estate and draw some residences back downtown. Even preventing an ungly box is reason enough to pass this ordinace.

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The city's height ordinance also sets minimum heights for buildings, usually 25 or 30 feet.

So far, in the 26 years since it took effect, those limits have never been an issue.

In 1968, Congress created a national flood insurance program because taxpayers were paying ever larger sums to flooding victims. To minimize future damages, the lawmakers required new buildings be built so many feet above sea level.

Proposed changes in Charleston's height ordinance would avoid new buildings with flat, boxy roofs, such as this office building at King and Queen streets.

It's a potential recipe for bland boxes, new buildings that offer little to pedestrians along the street and which have flat, boring rooflines.

Maher, Planning Director Yvonne Fortenberry and Zoning Administrator Lee Batchelder have been rethinking the city's height rules in a few places, especially in the city's most flood-prone areas -- areas where the federal government doesn't allow any occupied space on the ground floor because of the potential for a hurricane surge.

And they've come up with some proposed changes that they're taking before the city's Planning Commission on May 19.

The biggest change would be a new height zone in the area south of Charlotte Street, east of East Bay Street and north of Society Street, excluding Union Pier.

The height limit in this area is either 50 or 55 feet, depending upon location. The proposed change would allow parts -- but no more than 25 percent -- of a building to extend up as high as 70 feet.

That height would only be allowed if architects included a lobby space, building stoops, outdoor dining areas, gardens, or even temporary markets on the ground floor, the area in the prime flood zone (which makes it off limits for retail, residential, office or most any other use).

For every square foot that supports life on the street, architects could design an equal number of square feet above the 55-foot limit. At least 75 percent of the building would have to remain at 55 feet or less.

"If we don't find a solution toward activating the ground floor, it's going to have only parking," Maher says. Still, the benefit of developing part of the roof area will help offset any added investment on the ground.

"The extra space up on the roof is prime leaseable space," Maher says. "The architecture will go on the roof. They'll go in to make it a significant element, not just a mechanical screen."

The stakes are high. The area included in this new height district is one of downtown's prime redevelopment sites; and if the district is well received, the city could extend it, or something similar, to the 60 acres of Union Pier, once it is ready for redevelopment.

The city also is looking at other changes to reduce the allowable height along sections of the commercial district roughly between Calhoun, St. Philip, Meeting and Queen streets from 100 feet to a maximum of 80 feet, or in some cases, only 55 feet. And it's looking at a change that would allow 55-foot-tall buildings, up from 50 feet now, along Calhoun between Meeting and East Bay streets.

http://www.charleston.net/stories/051004/beh_10archcol.shtml

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I don't see why this should be problem. Even 100' high buildings, in certain areas, won't harm the character of the city. The most important thing is to force developers to design quality exterior facades on this projects.

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That is true but I think that if the projects that are built are too large for the surrounding area, it will damage the charm of the city. It would be best if they could reach a compromised height.

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After visiting the city, I believe the city will be fine raising the height restriction to at least 200' North of Calhoun St and West of King Street. Also raising getting rid of the restriction in the areas north of US 17 would be fine also, as well as spur new dense development to these struggling areas north of the restored historic district.

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I guess now that I look at some of the pictures of the area, I think in some areas it would be okay. I just don't want to see a city so beautiful as that to be ruined.

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