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Foundation Matters

The Future of Union Pier

Posted: September 5, 2022

The State Ports Authority (SPA) is poised to redevelop the 70-acre Union Pier site in the historic district along the Cooper River. Redevelopment of Union Pier is a critically important opportunity for Charleston. SPA has engaged the LOWE development team to lead the master planning effort.

SPA kickoff event

Last week, HCF was excited to participate in SPA’s initial kick-off event for the future of Union Pier. The Port’s recently appointed CEO Barbara Melvin spoke and committed to a collaborative public process to guide the new master plan and to create a new peninsula neighborhood that prioritizes the community’s needs. The current passenger cruise terminal will remain and welcome port-of-call passengers, but it will receive much-needed upgrades and could also become an event space.

Bennett Rice Mill

The remainder of the Union Pier site’s future will be driven by Charleston’s needs and wants. This fall the agency will host additional public events to seek ideas and feedback to inform the plan and hopes to pursue zoning approvals from the city starting in early 2023. While this is an aggressive timeframe, HCF is committed to making sure Union Pier becomes a vibrant neighborhood that can be enjoyed by locals and visitors, advocating for the community’s desires, and ensuring the public is informed and engaged.

HCF Broad Priorities for the Future of Union Pier:

17 responses to “The Future of Union Pier”

  1. j walton says:

    Suggest you take a look at what Istanbul has done

  2. William Ackerman says:

    I hope the city will actively pursue cruise lines to stop in Charleston. It has been so nice and convenient to cruise out of Charleston without having to drive or fly great distances to other ports. Though having the cruise terminal where it is might cause problems for some, I’m sure those tourist dollars will be missed once Carnival leaves.

    I’m sure there are some in Charleston who don’t want any visitors at all, but there’s a reason Charleston is often ranked the #1 tourist destination. We live near Columbia but call Charleston our second home, and we visit as often as possible.

  3. Sally Davis says:

    I am a resident of downtown Charleston and I am greatly concerned about the impact the numerous residential structures that are going up along East Bay and Washington Streets will have on that side of the peninsula. The infrastructure can barely accommodate the current residents and businesses that are there now. I wouldn’t want anything else approved for the Union Pier area until we see what the actual impact of the current construction is. I, personally, can’t imagine how developing anything more than an open green space on Union Pier for locals and tourists to use to walk along the harbor from the Aquarium to Waterfront Park to the Battery makes any sense. I do realize the bottom line is always about the bottom line and that increasing revenue through taxes and fees will win out but I really think we need to take a hard look at what is becoming of our city.

  4. Deborah says:

    Still very sad about the cruise contract being canceled with Carnival. There should be ability for the overall cruise industry to be included.

  5. J. Estela Avery says:

    I had the good fortune to live full time in Charleston in 1970 and was there for a couple of short years. At that time I fell in love with the city and its culture. Fast forward I purchased two lovely condos on Rainbow Row about 10 years ago and continue to be distressed at the changes I see each time I visit my homes. More and more development along Bay St, Calhoun and surrounding areas. Nondescript architecture with little thought or workmanship. My full time residence is in Fredericksburg Tx and while the Historic Review Board is always diligent, it is a constant battle with city council for “growth and development”. There are so many Short Term Rentals that it is ruining the neighborhoods. Guests have little or no respect for the property or the neighbors. The owners are not available (investors) and complaints from full time residents seem to fall on deaf ears. I caution the full time residents of Historic Charleston neighborhoods regarding allowing their homes to be turned into short term rentals. I also wish that all the new development be done very carefully. When all of the beauty and history is taken away from the area, what are the tourists going to appreciate? We all have tall, ugly buildings where we live, why invest going elsewhere to discover that lasting architecture, workmanship and culture have also given in to a “better” economy.

    • Liza Holian says:

      We hear and share your concerns about the impact of global financial markets taking advantage of our city with inappropriate developments. We continue to advocate and fight against this style of development that is altering the fabric of our city at an alarming rate.

  6. Addison Ingle says:

    WINSLOW, please remind all parties involved with the Union Pier property that there is a 50′ height limit on all the UP property. Many years ago I served on a committee put together by the City, HCF, the PreservationSociety, and others, that had an ordinance passed to set that limit. We labored hard and long to arrive at the height of 50′, and it remained in effect until the Lowe people wanted, asked for, and got unanimously from the City an add’l 20′. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a bad thing. Our committee wanted to preserve the lovely low profile which Charleston’s harbor-side has offered to the world for hundreds of years. Look at what other harbors have done to themselves, jamming big, big commercial buildings onto their otherwise beautiful land. Please do not let that happen to us. Views of the waterfronts of James Island and Mt. Pleasant should,also, be treated as kindly.

    • Liza Holian says:

      Addison, thank you for your dedication and advocacy. We share your concerns over the height that is proposed and are recommending that the project maintains the low height limits previously set forth in the Preservation Plan that taper down as the project approaches the waterfront.

  7. Tommie Robertson says:

    Dear Winslow,
    As an owner at Anson House condos, I’m very concerned that ACE wall plans leave us, Laurens Place and Dockside outside the wall and unprotected. There are many hundreds of families living in these buildings who deserve wall protection just as much as other citizens’ homes.
    Please do all you can to advocate for wall protection for all homes. Many thanks! Tommie

  8. Joy Millar says:

    Thank you for all you do.
    There is great need for public access to the waterfront, fewer concrete to concrete hotels and basic condo developments.
    Charleton is known for trees and breezes.. no chance of either the way we are going. And that extra “architectural merit” floor – that has proved to be just another excuse for more square footage.
    Hold the line!

  9. Yvonne Michel says:

    With the destrution of low lying areas along Florida’s coastline from the 2 recent hurricanes as foreboding Charleston’s future, I think it is imperative that any development be developed with resiliency as a primary concern.

  10. Father and daughter says:

    We applaud the HCF for its promise to prioritize the preservation of the facade of the Bennett Rice Mill, the creation of a waterfront park, and a response to flooding issues. The scale of the Union Pier Project makes it too consequential to the historic fabric of Charleston to allow decisions to be made without complete transparency and a great deal of time to consider alternatives and the potential unintended results of hasty development.

    We believe that Charleston should continue the vision of waterfront access and parks around the peninsula. In order to maximize Charleston’s potential, we would prefer a large park, the re-naturalization of native marsh underneath the pier, and single family homes instead of more oversized monolithic apartment buildings.

    We encourage the community to become invested in this redevelopment decision. This is our chance to protect the city that we love, appreciate our natural landscape, and leave our mark for future generations so that they may enjoy the city as we have been fortunate enough to do.

    Several questions that we have about this development project:
    1. How does putting down more concrete help flooding?
    2. To what extent will this redevelopment project damage historic houses in the Ansonborough neighborhood when pilings are driven into the land?
    3. In general, what are the other unintended negative consequences of this development and how can they be prevented?

    • Liza Holian says:

      Good points and great questions! Impacts and resilience are major priorities for us as we learn more about the project as it moves forward. Please take a look at at their proposed storm water and flooding resilience plans and let us know what you think! With the impacts on historic structures it’s hard to say. Work will be need to be monitored with seismometers and mitigation plans put in place before work begins.

  11. Susan Flaster says:

    The proposed tax-abatement scheme is the same sort of fundamentally corrupt strategy which has left us paying for a failed nuclear power plant until the end of days. If this developer chooses to build a small city, intending, one believes, to make a vast pile of money, then this developer should pay for the infrastructure needed to reap its profits. The project is too large for its space and its proponents expect the City of Charletson to foot the bill for it. How can this possibly make sense to anyone?

  12. Friend of the city says:

    No to the proposed new project- Union Pier.
    The city needs to take back the land and build what is suitable for our beautiful city. Then the city can begin receiving revenues from what occurs with the new development for all people.

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