The Joseph P. Riley Jr. Waterfront Park, one of the Charleston’s most iconic settings, is about to get bigger.
The Charleston District issued a permit to the City of Charleston on August 15th to expand upon the existing Waterfront Park, a half-mile long, eight-acre linear park along the Charleston Harbor in downtown Charleston.
“The proposed project, which is adjacent to Fleet Landing restaurant and the SCSPA Headquarters office building, will expand the park by approximately half an acre and includes a public pier with a commercial marina and a water taxi service,” said Leslie Estill, regulatory project manager.
Expanding the Waterfront Park consists of constructing 700-feet of bulkhead and filling .54 acres of tidal marsh behind the bulkhead as well as constructing a 15-foot wide by 310-foot long walkway that will lead to a partially covered two-story 29-foot by 104-foot pierhead. A large floating dock with a connector float and gangway will be constructed on the south side of the pierhead, which will be utilized by the commercial marina for day and overnight public dockage, and a pick-up/drop-off water taxi service.
During construction, there will be a 20-foot buffer around the construction area in tidal saltmarsh, which will provide the necessary space for construction of the park expansion project as well as the equipment needed. This buffer includes .30 acres of tidal marsh, but a special condition of the permit requires that the permittees adhere to an approved restoration plan that details how the buffer area will be restored, if impacted, once the project is completed. The permittees will monitor the restoration project for four years after completion of the project.
Construction for the existing Waterfront Park broke ground in 1988 and the park opened in May 1990, despite Hurricane Hugo hitting Charleston in 1989 and causing approximately $1 million damage to the park. The park is broken into several distinct sections, which includes a fountain at the entrance, a pier that extends into the Cooper River and has sheltered picnic tables, benches and swings as well as a floating dock attached. The largest portion of the park, which is approximately a quarter of a mile, has two sections of parallel walkways. One walkway has a dense, shady canopy of oak trees with benches, while the other walkway contrasts the shady areas with open lawn that is adjacent to the Cooper River and landscaped with palmetto trees. In the center of the park is the famous Pineapple Fountain.
Prior to construction of the Waterfront Park, the area was the center of the maritime traffic with several wharves and shipping terminals, but a devastating fire at one of the terminals in June 1955 permanently closed the wharves and terminals leaving the area vacant and in rubbles for nearly 25 years.
The permitted park expansion is part of the 1980 Charleston Waterfront Master Plan, which uses urban design to emphasize the historical and natural beauty of Charleston for public use. Utilizing the design concepts of the Master Plan the park expansion includes an elevated park plaza, gardens, an amphitheater, elevated seating and several small gathering areas.
“When Waterfront Park rose along the banks of the Charleston Harbor nearly three decades ago, it was an extraordinary gift not just to our visitors, but to our citizens as well -a truly remarkable public space to visit, to enjoy, to share with family and friends,” said John Tecklenburg, Charleston mayor. “Now, with Lowe’s planned expansion moving forward, Charlestonians will be able to access and experience even more of this priceless public treasure in the years ahead.”