Posted: November 15, 2023
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at the first national conference for the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) here in Charleston as well as attending the National Trust’s Preservation Conference in Washington, DC.
My presentation at the ICAA conference focused on the conundrum of inserting large buildings into a historic cityscape. I was joined by Gary Brewer, a partner in the New York firm of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, who discussed his experience with the design review process in Charleston and the challenges that he has faced through the large-scale projects that they have designed here, including Courier Square and the Line Street development. This issue of how to make dense development compatible has haunted us over many years and unfortunately there are no easy solutions! However, how one approaches these larger projects, including the level of architectural detail and the quality of materials and finishes, makes a big difference.
There are two large projects on the horizon that encapsulate this challenge very clearly: first, the unfortunate project at 295 Calhoun Street that continues to be denied and litigated, and second, the third phase of Courier Square, where the Post & Courier headquarters and printing presses have been, which has yet to be publicly presented by the development team. The way that these two projects have been approached by the developers reveals extremely divergent ways of interacting with and listening to the community. While it is a large, complex project, the Courier Square team has taken an innovative approach to balancing density, architectural design, and improvements to the public realm that will contribute to the urban form of our city. It will be very interesting to see how these two projects end up, and rest assured that we will be super engaged throughout the process and keep you informed!
The reboot of the Union Pier project is another great example of how leading with community and civic values for a project can hopefully result in something that we can all be proud of—we will all need to get involved starting with public meetings next month to weigh in on this new process with a stellar team of consultants. Lastly, attending the National Trust conference—the first in four years due to the pandemic—allowed us to calibrate our work against a national barometer. It was heartening to see that the themes of community, inclusive histories, resiliency in the face of climate change, and seeking innovative solutions to the housing crisis all align with HCF’s programs and key priorities. With these major projects that are in the development pipeline, we must work together and remain vigilant to ensure that this city and broader region retain the special qualities that attracts everyone to move and visit here.