Plans for 18 one-bedroom apartments a block off Bay Street in downtown Beaufort are moving forward.
The Historic District Review Board approved on Wednesday the basic layout, first presented last fall, for the Residences on Port Republic.
The loft-style apartments would be at the corner of Scott and Port Republic streets, the site of a parking lot and empty commercial building. The property is owned by the Beaufort Inn, a subsidiary of developer 303 Associates.
The apartments would face Scott and Port Republic streets. Residents could enter from front or back, and city project development planner Lauren Kelly said the front entrances are compatible with the "walkable" downtown environment the city seeks.
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However, Arnie McClure of Coast Architects in Charleston said he'll redesign much of the exterior after the board and the Historic Beaufort Foundation expressed concerns about appearance. Both asked the architect to consider breaking up the facade into different colors and materials and using less of the "heavy" red brick shown in the conceptual drawings.
"I think it is so significant in its location that it really needs to be well thought-out," board member Quinn Peitz said.
Kelly also suggested the traffic pattern be reexamined, as it currently exits onto Scott Street, a one-way road headed toward Bay Street. Exiting onto Port Republic Street could relieve traffic by giving drivers options, she said.
The conceptual design shows one long, 22,000-square-foot building wrapping around the corner, but McClure said it could be divided into two structures.
The design is unusual, and breaking the apartments into two buildings is preferable, said Historic Beaufort Foundation executive director Maxine Lutz.
"There's really nothing like this in Beaufort," Lutz said. "It's really a whole new ball of wax."
The three-story building would be 40 feet tall at its peak, said Courtney Worrell of 303 Associates. Buildings in the downtown historic district can be no taller than 55 feet.
The surrounding area is a mixture of new and traditional, with the historic Verdier House on the front of the block facing Bay Street, and the Beaufort Clothing Co., Blackstone's Cafe and a newer building with the UPS Store, a currently empty storefront, and Palm and Moon Bagels on the other side of Scott Street.
Across Port Republic Street is a mixture of Beaufort Inn buildings, including the Smith Wallace building.
Board chairman Joel Newman said the plans need information about the surrounding buildings for better context.
"These sort of brick buildings ... look sort of heavy, and they look kind of like what people do when they are designing historical buildings that aren't historic," Newman said. "I think it's trying to gesture to something historical, and it's not necessary."
Modern Jewelers owner Kevin Cuppia owns one of the buildings neighboring the proposed development. He said he's concerned about losing public parking spaces, but is optimistic the apartments will bring more people downtown.
Dick Stewart, principal of 303 Associates, said an easement agreement with the city allows part of the property to be used for public parking. He hopes that easement can be moved elsewhere if the property is developed.
City planner Libby Anderson said she's examining the agreement.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.