The second to last meeting of the year was a busy one for the Historic District Board of Review on Wednesday. During the meeting, which lasted more than three hours the board approved three major projects in the downtown area – one hotel and two residential buildings.
Hotel Anne, 620 E. River St., which will include more than 70 rooms across three buildings is being developed by North Point Hospitality and was first heard by the board in August.
Due to the grade change, the plans for the hotel — two stories along River Street to the south and three stories along the River Walk to the north — were discussed for nearly an hour after staff recommended several changes. The two most prevalent changes being the elimination of a basement level and the elimination of two bridges that connect the buildings.
The petitioner, Patrick Shay of Gunn Meyerhoff Shay, the firm designing the project, had compared the bridges to those located along Factor’s Walk, but staff felt that recreating them on a hotel wasn’t visually compatible for the area.
“… That historical context is very specific to those buildings and locations and it doesn’t related to the new construction of a hotel. We just don’t feel like the bridges belong there,” staff member Ellen Harris told the board.
Shay argued against removing either of the elements. Shay stated that the he bridges were essential to the project in order to host rooftop events and, because of the flood plain elevation and grade of River Street, removing the basement wouldn’t change the look or height of the buildings.
“At the end of the day they’re also vital to my client’s project… These are going to be amazing places where you can go on the rooftop and see something that you probably can’t see any place else on earth and that is a 15-story container ship passing by within a 100 feet of you,” he said, adding that without the bridges guests would have to take a series of stairs or elevators to get to the neighboring rooftop space.
After much discussion the board sided with Shay on the basement issue and expressed appreciation for the revisions he made following the August meeting, but didn’t sway on the bridge removal.
“… (The bridges) are the only way to access the entrances to these buildings on Factor’s Walk, but these are going from roof line to roof line and it’s a completely different exterior expression and it’s just not the same as you find on Factor’s Walk,” said board member Becky Lynch.
On the west side, the board approved height and mass for a new four-story residential building at 701 Montgomery St. The property is an entire city block with a footprint of 22,617 square-feet containing more than 50 units and is being developed by Savannah-based Lookin Good Properties.
There was little discussion on the plans, which the board first heard at their August meetings. All of the members commended Brain Whitfield with Smith Dalia Architects, the firm designing the project, for removing a previously requested fifth floor and making adjustments that better fit the surrounding neighborhood.
“I definitely appreciate the petitioner’s willingness to compromise on a lot of the issue we took with the previous design. I think this is a really great improvement,” said board member Jennifer Deacon.
Another residential building, which will be located at 630 Indian St. and have a footprint of 57,000 square-feet, was also approved by the board.
The building, which will be seven stories tall, will include three floors of partially underground parking, retail and amenity spaces on the ground floor and more than 100 residential units on the above floors. The project is being developed by SDP Forsyth LLC and designed by LS3P and Gunn Meyerhoff Shay.
The board first heard the petition in August and approved the demolition of five non-historic structures on the site, but continued the height and mass vote so that the building’s overall height could be reduced along with several other revisions, which were all met and supported by the board members.
All three projects will go back before the board to present design details at a later date.