Greystar offers up extensive redesigns to Farr Street ‘Overture’ project
BY: CHARLIE MORRISON
The controversial project to connect the north and south portions of Farr Street, subdivide a property there and construct a new senior living apartment facility boiled to a head last Wednesday at a special meeting called for by the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association (DINA) to address concerns expressed by area residents. The meeting equated to the developer of the property, Greystar, making good on their promise to respond to citizen comments about the original project design, and more. Not only did the developer host the meeting, the company presented extensive revisions to their development plan to citizens in attendance.
DINA Land Use and Zoning Chairman Clyde Rush kicked off the gathering at Church of the Holy Cross by introducing the various parties in attendance, but it was Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan who first spoke on the specifics of the process to develop the Farr Street site.
“The reason we’re here tonight, we had our Property Owners’ Association meeting for the Daniel Island Community Association a couple of weeks ago, and there was a fair amount of concern, consternation, fear, and questions,” Sloan told the audience of about 75 residents. “So we were asked to and are holding a public meeting with you tonight.”
“We asked (Greystar) to stop what they were doing,” he continued. “We asked them to consider the community feedback. And I give credit to Greystar. They’ve agreed to two things, which they’ve done. They went back to the drawing board with the design, and the second thing is they agreed that if the direction they are following right now is something that is more amenable to the community that they would reopen the City (of Charleston’s) public hearing process and go back to the Planning Commission.”
Sloan also sought to sharpen the meeting’s focus, reminding attendees that while the actual design of the facility, along with its placement and orientation, were still debatable, what was not in question was whether or not the disparate ends of Farr Street would be connected. Also not up for discussion was the choice by the Daniel Island Company to sell the property to Greystar for the specific usage of a senior living facility, he said.
“Those are decisions that have been made, and we will go through the process again but if you have constructive criticism about the site design, (or) the alignment of the street, this is your first opportunity,” Sloan added. “Your second opportunity will come at the voluntary Planning Commission meeting that will be held during the first part of next year.”
Sloan then turned the podium over to Greystar’s Senior Director of Development for the Carolinas, Ben Liebetrau, who reported on what the developer had done in response to citizen concerns expressed in the months leading up to the December 21 presentation.
“We have gone back to the drawing board,” said Liebetrau. “We’ve completely changed the building, its orientation, it’s massing. Greystar has voluntarily gone back and spent about $10,000, delaying our project for two months to come back and address these concerns.”
Extensive renovations to the plan were made, reported Liebetrau, including relocating the placement of the buildings and realigning the Farr Street connection based on feedback received. Greystar is also considering the possible addition of landscaped buffers that could be used to mitigate the visual impact of the senior apartment facility, dubbed “The Overture.”
“We have spent about the last month flipping the plan on its head, going back and looking at all your concerns,” said Liebetrau. “We do feel that The Overture is a positive community benefit. It’s filling a huge, huge need in our community. This is a housing type that’s just not there.”
Sloan, Liebetrau and other Greystar representatives fielded questions from meeting attendees for an additional half-hour after the presentations were made. Residents did pepper Greystar and Sloan with questions and concerns they still had about the project, but the tenor of the debate was undeniably more amicable than in meetings past.
One of the final comments of the evening, on the topic of communication between developers, the Daniel Island Company and residents, was delivered by Daniel Island resident Bonnie Jellen.
“I’m hoping that as you, Matt (Sloan), go forward that you all learn from this lesson and have conversations much earlier because, believe it or not, no one has really enjoyed this adversarial process,” said Jellen. “Much earlier because it will ensure everyone’s voices are heard, it will save everyone a lot of heartache.”
While Sloan admitted, “there’s more work to be done,” he expressed satisfaction at the overall success of the meeting and called Greystar’s re-opening of the design process “admirable.”
“We’re accepting of this land use and think it will be a nice addition to the community,” he said, after the gathering. “…We ended up having a good conversation and I was really pleased…People saw a design and a concept, they raised concerns and the developer stepped back and did a monumental shift and addressed those concerns. And the end product is frankly better for everybody…The process worked the way that it should.”
The revised Overture project will be brought before the City of Charleston’s Planning Commission sometime in January or February. To view the design plans for the site, visit the Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association’s Architectural Review Board office, located at 130 River Landing Dr., Suite 1-B. The original subdivision plan approved by the City for the project is still valid, added Sloan, so if for some reason the revised version is not approved, the default will be the existing proposal.