Old federal building could become new downtown Charleston hotel

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - What some feel is a decade old eyesore could in the future be getting a face lift. An architectural review meeting could change the face of the Rivers Federal Building.

"Charleston does everything first class so hopefully we will see a quality hotel go in and I think it will better the neighborhood and the community," said Andrew Chin, manager at Paolo's Gelato Italiano in downtown Charleston.

Chin thinks the idea to possibly convert the Rivers Federal Building into a hotel would be a welcome change for the old and historic district around Marion Square and Meeting Street. The building has been sitting vacant for a decade.

"Anytime you have a vacant space that hurts the community and that drives the property down and increases crime," Chin said.

Dru Lowd, who manages a restaurant right by the old federal building, agrees and says using the structure as a hotel is a win not only for area businesses, but for Charleston as a whole.

"I feel it helps out the downtown area," Lowd said. "It brings more visitors to the downtown area and we get more foot traffic so I'm all for it being turned into a hotel."

The issue was taken up during an architectural review meeting Wednesday night. Robert Demarco with the board was the lone naysayer to not approve the conceptual request to convert the building. He feels the building itself built in the 1960's is an eyesore and should just be gone.

"If a building is bad architecture, I don't care when it was built I don't think we should keep it," Demarco said.

On the other hand, the architectural firm behind the project says reactivating a space that has been vacant since Hurricane Floyd just makes dollars and sense.

"It's been an empty spot and a dead spot in the area and I think it would make it a more lively and active space," said Will Wingfield, an architect with Gibson Guess Architects.

The next step in the process will be preliminary approval to see what else the architect presents. The next board review meeting will be February 9.

"I think with proper planning it can be a welcome addition to Charleston," Wingfield said.

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