Sixty-five years ago, something like the Canterbury House was not on the peninsula and the Sergeant Jasper Building arrived to meet the needs of the elderly desiring affordable housing. Now, we have a thriving Canterbury House and the Sergeant Jasper is about to be rubble … and something else. Needs and tastes change, and the citizens of Charleston await the opportunity to attend a meeting March 16 to render their opinion on what it should be.

Certainly, we believe that the site should be redeveloped because we must make use of our precious urban space. We cannot press for saving rural environments if we do not offer a plan to use what is clearly urban land in a responsible manner. We had better mentally underline “responsible” because that is the key word. What does it mean to citizens and those who would rightfully seek to make a dollar from their family holdings?

Consider that the massive Horizon Project on the west side of the peninsula will likely include a Publix where Crosby’s Seafood is currently located — not far at all from where the proposed maximum 35,000 square feet of commercial space is slated to be near Broad and Barre streets. Citizens want choices, but we want three large grocery stores within three miles of each other? Do we wish to facilitate the end of corner grocery stores? Of course, we do not. Downtown Charleston is supposed to be a mix of residential and commercial buildings, not the site for something approaching a big box store.

It seems it would be better to have a dozen small-footprint boutiques that do not require a constant stream of re-supplies from massive trucks that choke traffic. The Beach Company has an excellent location that can pull in superb businesses, but the idea of a large grocery store with 18-wheelers clogging Broad and Barre … that is a very tough notion for citizens to accept.

We know that the president of the Beach Company made some comments about his company’s Coleman Boulevard project on September 5 of last year to the Charleston Metro Chamber’s Developers Council. He said: “It worked, it’s full, and (The Boulevard tenants) are paying ridiculous rents.” The “ridiculous” part does not endear Mr. Darby and his firm to the community. No one wants to think he or she is a pawn of someone seeking to milk them. Exploitation and honest profit are two different matters and the comment was likely not intended to offend or be taken in any context outside of a guy spiking the football in the end zone. The problem is that the comment remains on the record.

Nonetheless, it is a delight to see our community in action for an important cause, one that the real Sergeant Jasper well understood. To be fair to the developers, they are facing opposition that goes well beyond the controversy on Barre and Broad; the community is decidedly determined to keep Charleston civilized and the Sergeant Jasper is somewhat akin to the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Why? Consider the totality of the following: massive tour buses, horse carriages, dozens of festivals, parades, service trucks galore, skateboarders, — here comes a cruise ship — rickshaws, drunken hipsters — another cruise ship has embarked — and multiple developments downtown and West Ashley, with more promised. Let that settle and see the totality of the impact. Frankly, we thought the public would have been up in arms a long time ago, but they are finally now poised for battle. We must not let what some call the “Jasper Disaster” become a prolonged nightmare. The developers can make a wise play on the chessboard and get a handsome return for a scaled-back redevelopment that shows Charlestonians a willingness to listen and be good neighbors.

 

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