One (very) Cool Breeze

Mixed-use space green from the inside out with planted roof, water-absorbing parking surface

Published on 01/12/09 BY ROBERT BEHRE

The Post and Courier

The three gray and black buildings composing One Cool Blow gradually will turn green in the years to come.

Their copper cornices will oxidize, sending streaks down the concrete, as jessamine vines at the bottom shoot up along trellises, or green screens, on the facades.

But that’s just the color.

Architect David Kimble knows the buildings already are pretty green to start with.

Coming up with a sustainable, environmentally-friendly design was one of the main goals for Kimble and his client, Wecco of Charleston.

The buildings’ sustainable features include large windows that bathe the inside with natural light, a planted roof that will help keep the building cool, a special parking surface that absorbs rainwater and smaller touches such as a recycling center and bike racks.

The other architectural goals were to use precast concrete panels and to create something that fits into this different part of the city, a long-neglected area defined largely by one-story industrial buildings.

“The use of raw concrete as opposed to more finished material was an attempt to fit in and not be a more jarring expression in an old neighborhood,” Kimble says.

While the material looked a bit blotchy when it first went up, Kimble says power washing solved that.

“There were days I was not happy with it. I thought, ‘Oh man, this is too much variation,’ but it’s coming together very nicely now,” he says. “It’s meant to weather.”

The design also was driven by the desire to create loft spaces — one-floor condos with open floor plans and large windows.

If there’s an odd note here, it’s the metal canopies linking the three buildings together. They don’t serve as protection for those passing between the buildings. Instead, they simply saved the developer by reducing utility impact fees (which were cut by one-third since these canopies mean One Cool Blow qualified as one building instead of three). Kimble makes use of one of them to support a generator needed to improve water pressure and run the elevators in an emergency.

The project’s mix of about 50 lofts and 12,000 square feet of retail and commercial space stems from a new city zoning law. That law, passed a few years ago, allows such a mix with relatively fewer parking spaces, provided that the project also includes relatively affordable units. (Interestingly, those units —priced below $200,000 —have been the slowest to sell).

Outside, the middle building’s dramatic butterfly roof shape and pergola-inspired detail serves as a visual focal point.

But the real treat is found inside the two flanking residential buildings, which each have open courtyards above their parking level, giving them a sort of Caribbean feel. The condo entrances are on interior walkways fronting on this open space, and owners also have access to at least part of the roof, which offers great views of the bridge, the interstate and the city.

“This is a nice opportunity to have a sense of community and be outside without getting the full elements,” Kimble says of the courtyards.

Those who live here are bound to agree. After all, this project’s namesake is a street and a 19th century village named for the strong gusts that cut through this part of the Charleston peninsula, apparently because Newmarket Creek once cut far deeper into the land here.

Even though the creek has been filled in (it’s where the new bridge now runs), the breeze remains. When Kimble and I talked on the sidewalk outside recently, our hats blew off.

Robert Behre may be reached at 937-5771 or by fax at 937-5579. His e-mail address is rbehre@postandcourier.com, and his mailing address is 134 Columbus St., Charleston, SC 29403.

ON THE WEB: To view a photo gallery of One Cool Blow Street, go to Charleston.net/galleries.