CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston is seeking public input as designs were released Tuesday for an extensive reconstruction project to the "Low Battery" on Charleston's peninsula.
The goal is to replace and raise the seawall along Murray Boulevard from Tradd Street to East Bay Street by 2.5 feet.
"The seawall at Low Battery is one of the most important spaces along the East Coast, but we also think it's important to look at elevating this portion of the wall to protect from flooding, high tides, and the effects of sea level rise," said city Planning Director Jacob Lindsey.
Ideally, city leaders would like to raise the walkway along the nearly miles long stretch of the Ashley River so users can see, experience and engage with the water through columns and railing, not a filled wall. This would look similar to the raised sidewalk along East Bay Street on the "High Battery".
The rebuilding of the seawall also gives city leaders a chance to improve the public space along the waterfront.
"This is a critical project for our city's future," Lindsey said. "That's why we're working so hard to ensure that our citizens have as many opportunities as possible to examine alternatives and provide meaningful feedback during this early stage of the process."
The city has collected four design proposals which can be viewed online.
This option would require the minimum level of improvements for the street. Textured crosswalks, mid-block crossing areas, landscaped curb extensions, and small park-like seating areas would cater to pedestrians. It would also bring the White Point Gardens closer to the water's edge by allowing people to cross Murray Boulevard safely while reducing parking spots along the waterfront.
However, the possibility of taking away parking concerns people.
"Wow! Yeah that's big," said Rob McAdams, of Mt. Pleasant.
"This is an area where they can come and park [and enjoy the park], well if they can't anymore then yeah it's going to be a problem," said Reggie Mack, of Walterboro.
Lindsey said drivers utilize parking along the waterfront for hours on end every day. The city wants to make sure the design selected will benefit locals, visitors, and homeowners, while adding to the beautiful landscape, but it's a sight that can sometimes be blocked by cars.
"We want to make sure the parking at Low Battery is thoughtfully considered for how long people can park and where," Lindsey said. "So we're going to be studying that as part of this process."
"I have siblings who live down here so most of the time I can park down here, so we walk around and do that stuff," McAdams said. "But if I wasn't from around here, there's nowhere to go. Parking is kind of a trouble as is."
Lindsey said city officials will be looking at options such as metered parking, neighborhood parking, and possibly no parking at all.
Strategy's 2-4 would eliminate the parking along the waterfront and travel altogether.
This option would remove parking to accommodate a widened and raised walkway. Designers state parking would have to be eliminated because the wall would prevent doors from opening. Under this design, the raised walkway would allow for railings and columns to be seen through, instead of a solid, opaque material.
"At waterfront parks all around the country, they maintain an open railing so that… you can still maintain an open view of the water," Lindsey said.
Strategies 3-4 look at major changes to the area along White Point Garden, one of the focal points of the Battery.
This option would expand the waterfront walkway as a linear park between King Street and East Battery. It would take over space currently occupied by on-street parking, a vehicle travel lane, and central median. This design would keep the street heading west to the Coast Guard station, which could either be one-way travel with parking or two-way travel. Renderings also show a wide walkway and green spaces filled with small paths, planting area, and safer pedestrian crossings.
The final option would restore the waterfront, specifically the section along White Point Garden, to the area's original, historic condition. This would eliminate vehicle travel and parking entirely from that section of the battery.
Lindsey said the city has done some preliminary cost estimates for the project estimating it to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
"It's not an inexpensive thing, but it's a very important investment to make," he said.
The money would come from a variety of sources including possible hospitality taxes.
The project would be done in phases over the course of the next five or more years, Lindsey said.
There are five ways citizens can provide feedback on the design proposals:
- A survey can be taken online in three minutes or less.
- On-site at an info booth, which will be set up with a public space demonstration at the intersection of King Street and Murray Boulevard on the following dates and times:
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Monday, July 17, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Saturday, July 22, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Sunday, July 23, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Friday, July 28, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Saturday, July 29, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Friday, August 4, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- An exhibit in the Charleston Civic Design Center (85 Calhoun Street) where citizens can drop by on weekdays, July 13 through August 4, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- During a community open house on Wednesday, July 19 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Civic Design Center where planners will give a presentation at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and answer questions.
- At the Charleston and West Ashley Farmers Markets:
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Wednesday, July 12, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Ackerman Park)
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Saturday, July 15, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Marion Square)
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Saturday, July 29, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Marion Square)
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Wednesday, August 2, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Ackerman Park)
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Saturday, August 5, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Marion Square)