Historic Old City Jail to become office space

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The old city jail is one step closer to becoming part office space after Charleston's Board of Architectural review approved conceptual design plans on Wednesday.

The owners of the property, Landmark Enterprises, plan to keep the design and look of the building.

The structure is weakening, as walls with cracks crumble.

It's a place people are drawn to for its historic nature. It opened in 1802 and served as a jail through 1939.

Spartanburg resident Alexis Heffner traveled to Charleston for one of the nightly ghost tours at the jail.

"I love this so much because you get to hear the history of Charleston and everything that happened and I think that excites me so much," Heffner said.

She just learned part of the building will become office space.

"I don't like it at all, I don't think you should change it," Heffner said. "It's part of the history of Charleston."

Landmark Enterprises are committed to keep the building's character and style, while providing the structural improvements necessary to preserve the space.

Plans include adding an elevator and staircase to the back of the building, but it will mostly look the same.

Manager of Advocacy for the Historic Charleston Foundation Chris Cody supports the plans for the space.

"The old city jail is an iconic building in Charleston and it desperately needs help," he said."This is a very difficult rehabilitation project and we've watched the jail for many years hoping someone would undertake this project and do it the right way."

Cody says Landmark Enterprises is utilizing  the Federal Historic Preservation tax credit and State Historic Preservation tax credit as part of its financing.

He says that means they will be submitting the building plans to the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks service who will make sure the project is done the "right way" according to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation.

"It's going to continue to be the old jail and it's going to be there for generations to come, which without this rehabilitation would not be certain," Cody said.

While Heffner is unsure about the changes she knows she wants to be part of the jail's future.

"I want to be the person that gives you the tours in Charleston that tells you about the hauntings and how people died and where everything happened in Charleston," Heffner said.

Bulldog Tour officials, who give the jail tours, say they are thrilled about the preservation plans.

They also say the owners are committed to the public having access to the building.

Tours will continue, but it's not clear what the renovations will look like on the inside.

Planning is still in the beginning stages.

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