Demolition of Beaufort's first power station denied

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 17, 2013 

This brick building at the end of Depot Road housed Beaufort's first power station. SCE&G wants to demolish the building to make room for expansion of the power substation next door.

SARAH WELLIVER / STAFF PHOTO

SCE&G won't be allowed to tear down the first power station built in the city of Beaufort.

At least for now.

The electric utility company asked the city's permission to demolish the building it owns at 2822 Depot Road to make room for expansion of the power substation next door. The Historic District Review Board considered the request in December and voted Tuesday to deny approval.

"Staff recommends denial of this request because this is a unique and intricate structure," city project development planner Lauren Kelly said before the vote.

The request was discussed at length in December with project manager Robert Burrows and regional community and economic-development representative Brad Samuels, both from SCE&G/SCANA.

SCE&G is a subsidiary of SCANA.

SCE&G argued the building, built in 1906, is both a safety hazard and an obstacle to the substation's expansion. The expansion is needed to meet increasing power demand in the area, according to December meeting minutes.

Committee member Mike Rainey said he wanted the building to be restored because of its historical significance.

Chairman Joel Newman said he lives near the building and passes it daily. It is near the first mile of the Spanish Moss Trail, and the cleanup of the nearby depot area around the trail has primed the area for redevelopment.

"It recalls the earliest phases of River Street in Savannah," he said. This is "one of the rare pieces of fabric in that area."

Committee members discussed moving the building and delayed a decision until this month's meeting so SCE&G could look into renovation options.

In the meantime, Councilman Mike Sutton, a contractor, examined the building and reported it should not be moved, Kelly said. SCE&G submitted very new little information, but to Rainey, that didn't make a difference.

"I don't think any presentation by the applicant will sway me one way or another," he said.

City ordinances call for another 180-day stay of demolition before the project can be reconsidered.

The decision pleases Historic Beaufort Foundation interim director Maxine Lutz, one of the preservationists who wants the building saved, even though it is outside of the downtown historic district.

"We consider it historic because it is one-of-a-kind and it is part of a grouping down there of industrial buildings that represents part of Beaufort's history," she said, citing the Beaufort Depot and Pickle Factory as the other structures. "That was a bustling area down there for a long time."

She wants to see the building stabilized until further plans for how it and the land it's on are available.

"Then they have a legitimate use for their property," she said. "But just to destroy a building that was the first power company, with wires that actually came from that building and lit Bay Street, I don't see a reason for that."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/'IPBG_Erin.

Related content:

Beaufort Depot commercial center plans put on hold, Oct. 16, 2012

Spanish Moss Trail expected to open by Thanksgiving, Sept. 13, 2012

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