The view from the U.S. Customs House may become a little more scenic by late 2012, as the South Carolina State Ports Authority moves ahead with plans for a new cruise terminal farther up the Union Pier property. It will mean that the existing 40-year-old terminal would likely be demolished, and prompt a larger redevelopment of the 30 acre site.

On Monday, the SPA board hired engineering firm CH2M Hill to develop a detailed plan for the project and provide a cost estimate.

The new vision for a Market Street water vista was only one of several potential carrots the ports authority dangled in front of groups weary of redevelopment plans and the environmental impacts of cruise ships. SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley both touted a projected $37 million economic impact from the cruise industry and more than 200 direct jobs because of the twice-weekly stops in the Charleston Harbor.

Newsome told a small crowd last week that the authority was excited about the relocation opportunity, but that they could just as well stay and retrofit the existing building. It would mean cargo ships and rail and truck traffic would continue to come in and out of the Union Pier site, all but ruining redevelopment hopes, including proposals for a wealth of park space, additional public roadways through the site, and a large increase in waterfront access.