New Union Pier team says public interest will be at the forefront of planning
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Union Pier project team gathered Thursday to discuss what’s ahead for the nearly 65 acres of land on the Charleston harbor.
After the community put the kibosh on developers’ plans earlier this year, the City of Charleston and the South Carolina Ports Authority agreed to extend the planning timeline to create a plan that reflects the priorities of the community.
The new project team encompasses four firms and is made up of planners, engineers, architects, and more.
Their goal is to create a plan that’s approved by Charleston’s Planning Commission and City Council before the Ports Authority takes it to the marketplace to find an interested developer.
“Exactly the opposite” of how it was done before, Fred Merrill, the Principal of the lead design firm, Sasaki, said.
Merrill said the public’s voice will guide the strategy for planning, and that the team is interested in elevating voices that have not previously been heard.
“We want to find out what the community wants, and then we begin to craft the plan around their various desires,” he said.
They plan to expand the public waterfront, complement the adjacent design, integrate a coastal resilience plan, address the workforce housing gap, and enhance public transparency.
“Union pier’s been sort of fenced off, not a site that’s been open to the public, so we think when people begin to walk on the site, see the site, engage with the site, they’re going to think about it a little differently,” Merrill said.
He said the team will need to balance the public’s interests with creating a financially feasible plan. One idea he suggested was to use open space creatively to create land value.
Brian Turner, the President and CEO of the Preservation Society of Charleston said it’s important to think about the unknown costs of developing the site, which was originally marshland.
“The real question is how we’re going to find that balance of a resilient coastal edge with a place and a destination for people,” Turner said.
The team hopes to have a final design concept toward the end of spring 2024.
You can find more information about the project team, here.
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