Daniel Island residents, along with the rest of the City of Charleston’s tax base, are helping fund the future of a long-awaited waterfront redevelopment downtown terminal at the Port of Charleston – Union Pier.
Union Pier’s redevelopment has been more of a pipe dream than a reality for the past 40 years, since the city’s waterfront plan began in 1980. After two unsuccessful visions by the landowner, the South Carolina State Ports Authority, in 1996 and 2010, SPA has teamed up with Los Angeles-based real estate investment company Lowe Enterprises, owner of Wild Dunes on Isle of Palms, for a third attempt to build a waterfront paradise with the equivalence to a master-planned community.
The Daniel Island Neighborhood Association invited SPA and Lowe to Daniel Island Pointe Retirement Community for a Nov. 2 meeting to share their latest vision for the site – a 70-acre parcel with 40 acres of high ground and 30 acres of piers over the water. A future destination that DI residents may be able to access via a brief boat ride across the Charleston Harbor.
“We’ve really been talking about redeveloping Union Pier for decades and it’s finally coming to a patch where it really is happening at this stage of the game,” said Jordy Yarborough, SPA vice president of statewide stakeholders and local government engagement. “… It is transformational for the (Charleston) peninsula.”
Union Pier’s vision became reawakened when SPA announced in March that they are shifting from a homeport operation to a port-of-call operation and would not extend their contract with Carnival Cruise Line beyond the end of 2024. Beginning in 2025, Union Pier will offer 104 port-of-calls a year which equates to two stops a week for cruise ships staying overnight. The rest of the year, the pier can function as a site for maritime-related events.
This change in operation also permits SPA to remove the cruise terminal parking lot and build on the existing parcel. SPA has said they intend to develop the property into a mixed-use neighborhood that blends seamlessly with downtown Charleston and includes single, family and workforce housing, restaurants, retail and office space, waterfront access and open space for a park.
“Not only is this a transformational opportunity for downtown,” said Jacob Lindsey, Lowe’s vice president of development, “but ultimately the sale of Union Pier goes toward furthering the economy of the state of South Carolina.”
Lindsey noted that the buildings, which includes hotels, will range from four to eight stories tall. The development will be predominantly residential with housing options to buy and rent.
As for parking, Lindsey noted there will only be parallel and structural parking and no surface-level parking lots. Additionally, all utilities will be installed underground.
In terms of recreation, an island-style public waterfront park is being envisioned for the 30-acre portion of low ground, where SPA warehouses currently sit for storage. Other features to be included, pending a feasibility study, are a marina promenade and a dock with public boat access.
“Great spaces around the world have wonderful waterfronts and there is no reason Charleston shouldn’t either,” Lindsey added.
Historical elements on site such as the Bennett Rice Mill facade, a rice mill that opened in 1845, and the area where the Mosquito Fleet, a black Charleston fishing crew from the 1860s until the 1950s, are slated to be stabilized and preserved.
Yarborough noted that Union Pier’s entitlement paperwork is projected to be done by next summer and will enter a public bidding process for sale by the end of 2023. SPA will use the sale to fund future infrastructure needs, such as Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Hugh K.
Leatherman Terminal that required $1 billion of funding for Phase 1.The future buyer, whether it be Lowe or not, is bound by the parameters of the developing master plan. For more information or to submit feedback, visit unionpiersc.com/.