Saying that requesting site plan and design approval before securing a zoning ordinance approving parking measures was “putting the cart before the horse,” the Columbia Design/Development Review Commission on Thursday denied preliminary approval for a proposed 12-unit apartment building at 933 Main St.
However, the commission urged the developer, Ford Elliott of Greenville, and the architect, Taylors-based Bradley Van Name, to consider its comments and present the project again.
“We hope to see you back,” commission chair Robert Wynn said.
An initial vote to approve the site plan resulted in a tie. Wynn then made a motion to deny site plan approval, which passed, as did a motion to deny design approval.
Commission member John Powell said he hoped the denials would speed up the process of obtaining the zoning ordinance. “We will see this again,” Powell said.
The four-story brick apartment building, around 14,000 square feet, would be called The Lofts at the Capitol and built over a first-floor, open-air parking deck on a 0.29-acre parcel with the Immaculate Consumption restaurant and the former Nickelodeon Theater. The existing building, renovated by Van Name in 2012, would remain.
Commission members expressed concern that structural columns needed to support the upper three stories would curtail the number of available parking spaces, presented in the site plan as 21. The project already needed a variance, requested but not yet granted, from the Board of Zoning Appeals to make up for a shortfall in the required 26 off-street parking spaces.
“It’s just very clear that there are going to be columns coming into the middle of the parking spaces,” commission member Tom Savory said. “I don’t think we have a clear picture.”
Further reducing the number of spaces would also free the architect to improve the overall design of the building, the commission said.
“We can do everything under the sun if we can sacrifice parking,” Van Name said.
The proposed building would face Pendleton Street with a four-foot setback. The setback is necessary to accommodate the required distance from overhead power distribution lines, Van Name said, but the commission worried it would cause the building to stand out awkwardly from its two-story neighbors.
The setback makes it clear that there is “a massive three-story building sitting on top of something very spindly,” Savory said. “ … The bottom floor doesn’t match the three stories above. They’re just different animals. I think that can be improved.”
Initial commission concerns about the utilization of storefront appearance windows planned for the first-floor façade were also discussed, with Van Name saying the windows – an idea borrowed from old Nickelodeon movie posters – would not be used for retail purposes but would be more suited to something like a mural.
Reached by phone after the meeting, Elliott declined to comment.