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City Council, March 26

Roper gets approval to plan a hotel
Best Friend Train replica to return to Charleston
There was little on the agenda for last night’s City Council meeting. Consequently it was a relatively short meeting though it would have been shorter but for a number of proclamations and presentations.

As was expected, Council approved the extension of the Accommodation Overlay to include the lot at 325 Calhoun Street. It also agreed to amend its ordinance to allow the construction of a less than 150 room hotel, but only at this location. The present ordinance limits the size of a new hotel, south of Calhoun Street, to 50 rooms. The site is owned by Roper Hospital and is across the street from its hospital complex.

Roper plans to construct a hotel on the site, designed to cater to needs of family and friends of patients. The hotel was endorsed by the neighborhood association and by all Council members. However, some Council members had concerns. Council member Wilson drew attention to the traffic problems at this part of Calhoun Street, where it intersected with Courtenay Drive and just before it joined with the James Island Expressway. The project with its ingresses and egresses could only exacerbate the problems. Tim Keane, Director of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability, acknowledged the potential problem and said a traffic study would be made and steps taken to ameliorate possible congestion. Council member Alexander noted the low-rise nature of buildings on the south side of Calhoun Street. He hoped that the new construction – four stories according to Director Keane - would not lead to more high-rise buildings along the southern side of the street, transforming it into a “canyon”.

Other items discussed last night were

  1. The award of a $419,217 contract to construct a floating dock at Waterfront Park. From discussion on the item, a water taxi service will operate from the dock. Presently only one company has sought to provide a service but the City expects there will be others.

  2. Approved the extension of the Best Friend Train Loan agreement to allow the “substantial completion of the exhibit site” abutting the Children’s’ Museum near the Visitors Center. A full size replica of what was possibly the first train to operate in the US is to be taken from the headquarters of Norfolk Southern in Atlanta. Norfolk Southern donated the replica to the City in 1993. The original train, “Best Friend of Charleston” was built in New York and began service in Charleston in 1830. Ultimately, it was intended to run from Charleston and Summerville but the train was destroyed in an accident within a year of beginning service and before completion of the route. Consequently, it only serviced communities along 6 miles of the route. The replica was built in 1928 to mark the centenary of the service.

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