Union Pier Part Two
By Eleanor Smythe
South Carolina Ports Authority delays development plans for one year!
After much hue and cry from Charleston residents and many nonprofits, the opposition against the proposed Union Pier development plan was too much for the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA).
On June 16th, the SCPA in conjunction with the City of Charleston and the Mayor held a press conference to announce a halt to all development plans for the Union Pier property for one year.
Going forward, the SCPA will review and reconstruct the current plan to redevelop Union Pier and their cruise ship port of call in historic downtown Charleston. Working under the guidance of the Joe Riley Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston, the SCPA, in conjunction with community leaders and city officials, will create a new vision and plan for Union Pier, taking into account the public comments. The real estate developer Lowe is no longer involved in the planning process.
Brian Turner, Executive Director of the Preservation Society articulated clearly,
”We are now engaged in a new planning process to determine the future of Union Pier. The Ports Authority and the City made the right decision to reconsider their approach. Both now have the chance to produce a land use plan that addresses community needs, while also being mindful of the site’s cultural and ecological history. We can draw on ideas from the best and brightest to ask, in a public setting, “Why Not?”
The decision marks a sharp departure from the SCPA strategy for redeveloping the site until now. For the past year, they worked with Lowe to draw up a development plan moving quickly to get city approvals with the intention to sell the property by the end of 2023. Now, the port plans to sell the 64-acre property along the Cooper River by the end of 2024.
When asked why the Ports Authority was willing to pivot on its original timeline, Barbara Melvin, CEO of the SCPA said the end result will be better. “We think value is created by more community engagement and city engagement,” Melvin said. “This is going to create a lot of value for the port and the city.”
A coalition of local advocacy groups including the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Coastal Conservation League praised the new process and timeline.
June 2023: Ports Authority requests Planning Commission defer its decision on Union Pier.
June 2023-March 2024: Ports Authority and city officials will proceed with the Comprehensive Plan amendment process and use community feedback to adopt an amendment that creates a “Waterfront District” label for the Union Pier site.
January-March 2024: City will work to complete a coastal resiliency compatibility study for the Union Pier site with other flood mitigation measures.
January-March 2024: Ports Authority and city officials continue the process for adoption of the TIF/MID ordinance.
April-June 2024: Ports Authority and city officials will develop a park/recreation programming plan with community input for the district.
April-July 2024: Ports Authority and city proceed through the Planning Commission and City Council review, with the goal of adopting by July 2024 a new designation for the Future Land Use for the Union Pier property, revised PUD and any relevant zoning amendments. Depending on the extent of changes to any pending applications, the deferred applications may require another hearing prior to any Planning Commission action.