Mayor Riley’s 2012 State of the City Address – a focus on Charleston developments and my two cents

On January 24, Mayor Joseph Riley gave his State of the City address, outlining what has been accomplished in Charleston, his vision for the (last?) four years of his term, and ongoing City initiatives. I thought I’d pull out the text regarding the developments on the Charleston peninsula, many of which I have mentioned in the past on this blog or as article links in my monthly newsletter.  Each of these urban infill projects will transform some of the grittier parts of Charleston into lively, integrated spaces.  Of course, I can’t help but give a little bit of my humble opinion on these too…I’d love to hear yours too.

Union Pier Redevelopment

Addressing the construction of the new cruise ship terminal at the northern end of Union Pier, Mayor Riley says, “The new cruise terminal will then create probably the most significant redevelopment opportunity in our city’s history with the redevelopment of  the southern portion of Union Pier. This 35 acres of warehouses and the old cruise terminal will be transformed into a beautiful new part of our city with places for people to live, work and visit. It will allow for extension of public access along our water. We will be working closely with the South Carolina State Ports Authority and with the full engagement of the community to make this a reality.”

While I am a big fan of the 35 acre development and extension of public access to the water, I disagree with locating the cruise terminal here. There is a higher and better use for that vast swath of concrete parking lot you see in the rendering below. My dream instead is to have more homes, office, retail and restaurants, intermingled with green space and pedestrian

Sketch of New Albany’s Waterfront Amphitheater

walkways, created in such a way that it blends seamlessly with historic Charleston and the existing condo buildings.  Perhaps some beautiful modern creations could also be built as a nod to the present century and as destination architecture.  And what about having a waterfront amphitheater for outdoor concerts as the sun goes down??

Then instead of a massive cruise ship occupying the pier area which must always be used for maritime activities, I’d love to see a boat basin and active water taxi service.  Could you imagine being able to take a boat from your dock on James Island or the Old Village, tie up in a slip Downtown and walk to the restaurants?


Union Pier Concept Plan


Upper King Street and Midtown Development

“The continued amazing redevelopment of Upper King Street is about to see a major addition with the construction of the Midtown redevelopment. This will be an $80,000,000 development at Spring and King Streets going south to where Cannon Street enters King, including restoration of the old C&S Bank Building. This development will include a hotel, meeting space, offices and retail space. Also, adjacent to Midtown at Meeting and Spring Streets, over 200 new apartments will be constructed valued at $40,000,000.”

I think this development is perfect, though combined with those 200 apartments, the automobile traffic there is going to surge to unmanageable levels.  Let’s hope they include provisions for alternate forms of transportation – better sidewalks, bicycle parking, and the extension of the free DASH trolley to that area.

By the way, if you look at the image below, the C&S Bank Building he refers to is on the lower right side. I happen to know that it will be transformed into a fantastic restaurant, with one of our local ‘celebrity’ chefs at the helm.  Stay tuned for more on that…



The Gaillard Auditorium Renovation

“Construction of the Gaillard Center will begin this August. This will produce a world class performing arts facility, a beautifully renovated exhibit and meeting space, offices to serve the citizens of Charleston, and with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a beautiful new and redesigned green space on Calhoun Street. The Gaillard Center will be an economic boon. It will produce 390 permanent jobs, $46.5 million of economic activity annually and have a positive impact on the city’s budget. One-half of the cost of this beautifully renovated facility will be borne by the private sector and generous citizens in our community.”

Currently our city’s primary performing arts venue, the Gaillard Auditorium has been in the need of a makeover for quite some time.  Frankly, I can’t imagine what the original architect was thinking – it’s one of the worst laid out venues I have ever been to and for the most part, is aesthetically displeasing.  Here is a rendering of the new facility.  The design is certainly to be expected, though I wish we could have something a bit more creative.

Many of the Ansonborough residents are concerned that the new venue will be too large, and will encroach on their neighborhood, but I say, just let it go. You bought a house there, knowing that three major commercial thoroughfares bounded your neighborhood – development is bound to happen. I think once it is all said and done, residents will enjoy having a beautiful new space for the arts, coupled with a new public green space just steps from their front doors.  After all, isn’t proximity to everything and anything one of the reasons we love living Downtown?

Horizon Development Project

Did I scoop the Mayor on this one? 🙂  I wrote about this on January 19.

“We have been working very closely with the Medical University and the South Carolina Research Authority to take wise advantage of the over $200,000,000 of research activity that goes on at the Medical University of South Carolina every year, and help transfer that research, ideas, techniques, devices and drugs it helps identify and create to new jobs in our community and to help make Charleston and our region a biotech and life science center in our country. The Horizon development will create space for new companies or expanded companies to locate near the Medical University as well as create new places for people to live and shop.”


Overall, I am excited about what the next few years hold for the City of Charleston.  When I first lived here 17 years ago, Charleston was still a bit sleepy and was certainly gritty. Upper King Street was a ghost town, the bridge from Mount Pleasant was terrifying, Harleston Village was an “up-and-coming” neighborhood, and Bogard Street was one of the most dangerous places to be.  All of this has changed for the better, and while certainly developments and gentrification bring their own set of issues, the City of Charleston and Mayor Riley have done a pretty good job managing growth in this town.  Whether it be by force or inspiration – it’s worked out pretty darn well.

So let me know what you think about all of these goings on. Is it too much? Too little? Ugly? Do you have better ideas? Post your opinions here.

5 Responses to “Mayor Riley’s 2012 State of the City Address – a focus on Charleston developments and my two cents

  • Kristin, your vision for Union Pier and the waterfront is much better than what the city has planned. That new cruise terminal is flat and bland…And Gaillard so needs to be updated.

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