Courtesy South Carolina Ports

Tower. Tower. Tower. Tower. Tower. Tower. All on one street. Then multiply by four.

What you get is 24 chunks of buildings in a six-by-four grid over 70 acres. That’s the nascent plan for redevelopment of Union Pier into a so-called neighborhood that will “blend seamlessly with the surrounding community, complementing the Charleston skyline.” 

We’re not sure how cramming as many multi-story buildings as possible into 70 acres complements anything but greed. This plan is too much and just not right for Charleston. And the good folks at the State Ports Authority who are leading the redevelopment effort should know that. They should know we don’t need 600 more hotel rooms and 1,600 multifamily residential units on the peninsula. What we desperately need is way more than the plan’s 50 proposed affordable housing units.

Let’s be crystal clear: The redevelopment plan for Union Pier offered by the State Ports Authority and a private developer would taint Charleston’s charm and steer it to become another concrete jungle on a river. And now, surprise surprise, the developers want to move this thing along by June instead of later this year.

Let’s slow down, folks. We only have one chance to get it right with this incredible opportunity to reshape Charleston a little bit. Junking it up with a bunch of six- to eight-story buildings isn’t our idea of a welcoming environment. 

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg reacted succinctly: “It’s too tall and too dense with too many hotel rooms, too much block-sized development and too little affordable housing. Which doesn’t mean the plan is without merit. In fact, it has several positive elements. It just needs to get a haircut and go on a diet.”

Indeed. Union Pier needs more open space and fewer chunks of buildings. We need more affordable housing downtown so firefighters, teachers and police officers can live in a downtown that has become obscenely expensive. We want families living in a real neighborhood that’s not an array of future tenements.

Charleston is our home. We demand a responsible plan that prioritizes our community values, not development values of the State Ports Authority or outside consultants and developers. 

We know what we want — a comfortable new neighborhood that truly blends into the Holy City. And we know what we don’t want — buildings that become tenements.

Slow down. We don’t have to meet someone else’s June deadline or an October deadline. Get it right first.

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