Advocacy Alerts

Thursday: Make your voice heard about Union Pier’s urban design

preservation-admin , April 3, 2023

Planning Commission holds its next Union Pier meeting this Thursday, and you have a chance to shape the questions they ask.

This will be the second informational session on Union Pier, and will discuss the overall urban design, density, and height of the proposed redevelopment.

The design approach the State Ports Authority (SPA) has proposed falls far short of the vibrant, exciting, world-class community that could be built along Charleston’s sensitive waterfront.

Planning Commission special meeting on design, density, and height at Union Pier
Thursday, April 6, 2023, at 5 p.m.
Gaillard Center Ballroom (2 George St.)
Note: This meeting is for information only, no action will be taken

The public is invited to attend the meeting in person or submit comments online by 12 p.m. on Wednesday. Proceedings will also be livestreamed via YouTube.

This project still has several levels of approvals needed, including from City Council, but with an aggressive timeline laid out by the SPA, every chance for residents to learn more is critical.

The Union Pier plan proposes 6- and 7-story buildings a block from the waterfront. Credit: SPA/Lowe Enterprises presentation.

We expect Thursday’s meeting to be a preview of how the SPA and project team will incorporate feedback from city staff, or if the plan will continue to feature the same out-of-scale development proposal initially rolled out earlier this year.

Here’s what we hope to hear addressed on Thursday about the meeting’s focus topics:

  • Urban design: Charleston streets are characterized by small and mid-sized buildings, woven together with complementary fine-grained details that create a cohesive feeling across downtown. Early designs that show block-size buildings lining the new streets of Union Pier all but guarantee the development will be a massive shock to the downtown streetscape.
  • Density: Considerably more open space at Union Pier could go a long way to moderate the impacts of the tall, large-floorplate buildings that clearly are the top priority of this developer-driven proposal. One commissioner even put it plainly at the last meeting: “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of green.”
  • Height: Lowe’s plan allows up to 6 stories to be constructed along the Cooper River waterfront, with heights up to 7 stories. Charleston’s comprehensive plan, a key city planning reference, is clear: In general, tall, intense development does not belong in vulnerable and low-lying areas.

It is critical for the public to remain engaged and urge your elected and appointed leaders to ask detailed, meaningful questions about this consequential development. Your input can ensure the Union Pier master plan lays out key requirements and expectations that result in a new community we can all be proud of.

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