SC Ports Authority, partner reveal proposed Union Pier neighborhood plans

The South Carolina Ports Authority has revealed their updated plans for a mixed-use neighborhood to be built on the Union Pier Terminal.
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 2:56 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 10:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Ports Authority has revealed their updated plans for a mixed-use neighborhood to be built on the Union Pier Terminal.

President and CEO Barbara Melvin said the updated plans will include less density and around an acre of more greenspace, as well as creating a mall with the rice mill façade as a defining feature. They shared renderings of what the potential mall and updated site could look like, Wednesday.

Project Partner Lowe Vice President Jacob Lindsey said the heights of buildings in the neighborhood will range from three stories up to seven stories in the center of the site.

“What we’ll see is buildings that are more articulated than before, buildings that will blend with Charleston better than our previous proposal, and overall, it will create more public spaces for Charlestonians to use forever,” Lindsey said.

Although total costs haven’t been worked out yet, Melvin said private developers would provide money to the city to build and maintain the area’s infrastructure through a tax increment financing district and municipal improvement district.

Compared to the previous plan, Lindsey said the updated plan could cost a little more for public facilities.

Melvin said the updated drawings could be a potential way forward for everyone in the community.

“We believe this plan blends very well community input and what would be desirable for a developer to be a part of,” Melvin said. “There’s always a balance when you’re trying to present a project like this, and we feel like we have found a very good balance, but I stress again, we are still listening.”

However, the Preservation Society of Charleston said the new plans do not go far enough to satisfy their concerns.

“There’s really been no major change from this kind of continued trend, very concerning trend of big buildings marching down the peninsula,” President and CEO Brian Turner said. “This has raised a lot of concern in the community, and the revised plans really do nothing to alleviate our concerns.”

Turner also said the new mall retaining the rice mill façade is a welcome gesture from the state, but he wants the size and heights of the buildings reduced further.

“Those heights and those masses are exactly the same trend of buildings that we have permitted in places like the spine of the peninsula, on the high ground,” Turner said. “We’ve made conscious decisions as a community to move away from them once we get to the waterfront, and so what they’re proposing is a real deviation from our planning norms.”

Officials also said they’re coordinating with the City of Charleston as they work on their peninsula flood protection project with the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure the site works with their designs.

The Ports Authority will be presenting the updated plan to the Charleston Planning Commission at their Thursday night meeting at the Charleston Gailliard Center.

Melvin said they plan to file the updated paperwork for Union Pier on April 17.

“These plans can be improved with public input,” Melvin said. “We think that’s why it’s important for people to stay engaged throughout the rest of the city process because we look forward to what the community is saying.”

Chief Advocacy Officer Cashion Drolet at the Historical Charleston Foundation provided the following statement:

HCF is encouraged by the addition of the open green space surrounding the Bennett Rice Mill façade, as it provides an important view and connection to the water. This is a great start, and we would like to see additional allocation of green space throughout the developable portion of the site. We continue to have concerns over the height and density proposed, as well as compatibility with the exceptional design of our world-renowned historic city. It’s simply too tall and too dense. HCF will continue to advocate for architectural design principles and regulating guidelines to ensure that the future of Union Pier blends in the city’s existing aesthetic and protects the skyline views of steeples and spires.