Colonial Lake Torn Up. Sergeant Jasper Torn Down.

Way back when I was a student at the College of Charleston in the mid-nineties, my Charleston world was very, very small. I lived in the French Quarter (though it wasn’t called that silly name then), worked there too, partied on Market Street, and walked or biked a few blocks to school. I rarely ventured west of Coming or north of Calhoun and never above Cannon Street. Ever.

And imagine, that even though Harleston Village was just on the other side of the school where I went almost every single day, I never explored its tree-lined streets since it just didn’t fall within my myopic purview. And though I never once walked around Colonial Lake, my friend Tracy and I would drive past it on Broad Street on our way out of town, feet on the dash of her brown Monte Carlo, radio blasting to some old blues or rock ‘n roll, and remark to each other that a house overlooking Colonial Lake might be a great place to live when we were much much older – almost like living in the suburbs, but not.

So here I am, that much much older person I imagined, two decades gone, having lived in the place of my youthful musings for almost 9 years. And now this place that was undiscovered to me, this neighborhood that became my home, is on the cusp of changing forever.

Colonial Lake is being torn up, right as Sergeant Jasper is being torn down.

So, reality check here. It’s not as if Harleston Village hasn’t changed before. After all, the land the Sergeant Jasper stands on now was part of the Ashley River back in 1888. The Lake had just been created and Ashley Ave was called Lynch. See the screen shot below from the 1888 Sanborn Maps. For reference, the street above the 48 is Beaufain. The star/compass thing is in the middle of the water.


Sanborn Map 1888

Here’s a screen shot of what the area looks like today.  Filled in and filled up!


Aerial View of Colonial Lake and Sergeant Jasper site.

Certainly the neighborhood and the Lake have had other changes throughout the years – a pocket park created here, a street turned from one-way to two-way there, a new development or exquisite restoration on yonder…Heck, they used to have boat and tub races in the Lake way back in the day (I wish they would bring those back!).

And though generally I embrace change, and might even have been considered a changeaholic in my not-so-distant past, this one in particular requires I tap into deep reserves of patience over the next 1-5 years, because that’s how long it will take to complete it. Ugh.

Colonial Lake

So let’s start right out my front door.  The Lake has looked pretty much the same since the 1880s, give or take some landscaping additions over the years.  Many think the Lake is tired, a bit dirty, a lot crumbling. No argument there, though you know dear readers that has never affected my love for it… So what the Charleston Parks Conservancy and the City of Charleston have committed to is a $5,000,000 facelift with a gorgeous design aiming to achieve the quality and beauty of Waterfront Park. This is fantastic news for both real estate values and general aesthetics for the heart of Harleston Village. Obviously, I’m not complaining. It’s just that my view has gone from this:


Colonial Lake Rainbow

To this, as of Tuesday, January 20, 2015:


All fenced in

You like my dramatic juxtaposition?? 😉 The renovation efforts should take about a year to complete, during which time the Lake will be closed to the public. However, when the new Lake is revealed, I am 100% sure it will have been worth the wait.  Here’s a rendering of what the corner of Rutledge and Beaufain will look like to boost your enthusiasm. Pretty darn nice, eh??

Rendering courtesy of Charleston Parks Conservancy

Rendering courtesy of Charleston Parks Conservancy

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to sit on the new benches or seating walls, to wander the winding sidewalks, and to find my special sunset spot. Because in one year – I might even be able to see it…

Sergeant Jasper

Yup – she’s coming down. For those of you who don’t know what this is – the Sergeant Jasper is a 16-story apartment building built in the 1950s with commercial space on the ground floor. It was built by the Beach Company before there were height restrictions in the City, and so for nearly 70 years it has towered over the more human-scaled neighborhood, ugly in design, obnoxious in stature. However, it has been the most affordable housing available South of Calhoun Street for many years, and during the holiday season, its huge steel star on the roof lit up the night sky and served as a beacon for those of us coming home.  Most of us Harleston Villagers have a love/hate relationship with it.


Ghostbusters needed stat.

So given the perfect combination of end-of-life, available capital, and increased demand for additional apartment housing, the Beach Company decided the time was right to bring her down. One brick at a time.  No – they won’t do one of those cool implosions you see on TV. Rather starting in February when the last commercial tenant has said goodbye, they’ll take it down floor by floor, discarding the debris down the elevator shafts. Go here for a more comprehensive timeline.

What happens after that – no one knows…except that it will not be as tall, and it will be much more broad. Here’s a great article from the City Paper discussing the rezoning efforts needed for that.

If you refer back to that map up top, you’ll see a big triangle. Currently, the building and its concurrent parking only occupy one-half of that area. In the future, it will occupy all of that or 6 acres in total. In the photo below taken from the bend on Lockwood Drive, that vacant land you see will be no more.


Jasper from Lockwood

My best guess is that in the future we are looking at a combination of 4 and 6-story buildings, mostly apartments, with ground floor commercial and parking. It will most likely double the population living on that corner – having an unfortunate impact on traffic, however that remains to be seen. I imagine it will take a year to go through the design and permitting process, and then three years to construct.  Beach Company, here’s my wish list, so how about you grant all of them?

  1. Incorporation of lots of glass on the Ashley River facing side of the building, to reflect the gorgeous view and sunsets.
  2. A restaurant or two – preferably one with a sunset view on top of one of the buildings overlooking the River.
  3. Addition of a small, nice grocery store in the commercial space so I can walk a block to pick up my groceries rather than drive across town. How about a Fresh Market?? Pretty Please?
  4. Integration of green space with Colonial Lake and Moultrie Park, providing pocket parks and view corridors to the River.

So though I have a brimming, seething dread about the forthcoming noise, the dust, the pile driving, the hammers, the machines, the construction traffic, the incessant backing up beep beep beeps – I am confident by the time it’s done, it will be all for the best.  And just maybe I’ll be able to raise my glass not only to the gorgeous Lake from my piazza, but also to the sunset via a cocktail on a roof. And to change.


To donate to the Colonial Lake Renovation effort go here.

To read more about the Lake Renovations go here.

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