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Updated Charleston Union Pier master plan to include public space

Jenny Peterson //April 5, 2023//

Updated Charleston Union Pier master plan to include public space

Jenny Peterson //April 5, 2023//

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A pedestrian mall is planned for the space and to reach the waterfront on Concord Street, and will include the façade of the rice mill pictured here as part of the public space. (Photo/Jenny Peterson)

Plans for a major public park with a grassy pedestrian mall and promenade from Concord Street to the waterfront will be submitted to the city of Charleston by the South Carolina Ports Authority as a new addition to a master plan for 70 acres in downtown Charleston.

Reduced waterfront development and a major new public space are proposed for the master plan after community feedback, said Barbara Melvin, CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority, at a news conference held April 5 on the site. The new plan will be submitted to the city in mid-April for review.

The narrow grassy pedestrian mall, just under an acre, would connect downtown Charleston to the water with the Bennett Rice Mill façade in the center. The Rice Mill will be stabilized and be part of the public walkways and flanked by a mixed-used building that would be three stories tall on the façade and up to seven stories in the middle.

The pedestrian walkway would connect with an overall five-acre park for the site built over where industrial piers currently stand, with panoramic views of Mount Pleasant and the Ravenel Bridge, and connect via the waterfront to the South Carolina Aquarium and International African American Museum.  

The city would have to approve the new plan before the Ports Authority opens the project for bids.

The building heights for the development would blend seamless styles with the adjacent Ansonborough neighborhood and offer a variety of housing options, including workforce and additional housing commercial retail and restaurant spaces, according to the plan.

“We believe this plan blends very well. Community input and what would be desirable for a developer to be a part of … there’s always a balance when you are trying to present a project like this and we feel like we have found a balance,” Melvin said. “I will stress we are still listening and these plans can still be improved with public input.”

South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Barbara Melvin presents the revised plans at a news conference April 5. (Photo/Jenny Peterson)Jacob Lindsey, with Lowe, a private real estate company contracted by the Ports Authority to do property entitlements for the master plan, said the plan would include significant flooding mitigation and infrastructure improvements.

A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue agreement will be attached to the property, allowing developers to use taxes paid on the property to pay for infrastructure improvements, making the sale even more valuable, Melvin said.

“These new changes to the master plan create a major new public space and reduce development on the waterfront,” Lindsey said.

Melvin added, “We listened when city leaders, residents, conservationists and historians who said they’d like to see less density, more green space and the preservation of historic landmarks. These ideas and input are incorporated into this new plan. We heard you, and we are still listening.”  

The city’s technical review committee, planning commission and city council would all have to approve the master plan that would dictate how the 70 acres would be developed.

The plans can be reviewed online.