The Planning Commission hears public comments on Union Pier

This $275 million proposal would add a new town center and parks to Downtown Charleston’s eastern waterfront.

Union Pier waterfront park rendering, illustrating green space and people walking around

A rendering of the proposed Union Pier Waterfront Park.

Photo via the Port Authority

What is the future of Union Pier? And what is being proposed? We attended the Planning Commission’s special meeting for public comment on June 7 — so let’s break it down.

What do I need to know?

  • Union Pier is a 65-acre property along the eastern edge of the Charleston Peninsula (located between East Bay Street and the Cooper River). This property is owned by the Port Authority and has historically been used for cruise ships and shipping projects.
  • Union Pier Development area: the span of the proposed development runs from around the Customs House to Harris Teeter and spans the width of East Bay Street to the waterfront.
  • The estimated cost of the project (presented in the proposal) is $275+ million.
  • After an almost five- hour meeting, the Planning Commission decided to defer their decision on the proposal until the week of July 10.

What’s being proposed?

In December of 2022, the Port Authority presented a plan for the future of Union Pier to be transformed into a new development.

The current proposal involves transforming the Union Pier area to become a city center — including taller buildings, smaller blocks, and areas of highest elevation. Think: Daniel Island Town Center.

Significant impacts of the proposal would include updating the Rice Mill, creating a commerce area, adding green spaces and parks, developing more hotels, improving coastal protections, constructing affordable housing units, and changing traffic patterns.

CHStoday customs house rendering

A rendering from the viewpoint of the proposed development around the facade of the Customs House.

Photo via the Port Authority

What are the concerns?

More than 503 written comments were submitted and over 60 people signed up to speak. Here’s some of what we heard:

  • One of the most-commented-on parts of the plan was traffic patterns. Many residents expressed concern about how this development could impact existing traffic flows on East Bay Street and are looking for more robust analysis to be presented in the plans.
  • Many residents also recommended a slowing of the current development timeline and called for more research to be conducted on water proximity projections, water management, and sea level rise before the proposal moves forward.
CHStoday Ravenel Bridge Union Pier

The current view standing on the Union Pier property and looking out.

Photo by CHStoday team

So.... what’s next?

The planning commission will meet again the week of July 10. The Port Authority has stated that they take the public concerns into account and want to continually adapt the plan with the public in mind. Possible outcomes may include the approval, adjustment, or denial of the proposal as currently outlined.

How can I learn more?

Here are some of the main ways to voice your thoughts and stay up-to-date on the development.