Friday, June 16, 2023 News · Press Releases

Union Pier Plan shifting to community-focused process after significant public feedback

by Lily Abromeit

A coalition of Charleston advocacy groups is applauding the announcement Friday by the South Carolina Ports Authority and the City of Charleston that there will be a fresh start on the redevelopment of Union Pier, a significant project that for months has drawn overwhelming community feedback.

At the June 7 Planning Commission meeting focused on the proposed Union Pier project, Barbara Melvin, President and CEO of the Ports Authority, assured the hundreds of concerned citizens gathered in the passenger terminal that the agency is listening to the voices of Charlestonians.

This morning, Ports Authority and city leaders made good on that promise by announcing a change in course to provide an opportunity for Charleston to engage in a collaborative, community-led visioning process to shape the future of Union Pier.

This is a critical moment for Charleston that demonstrates the power people can have by working together and advocating for the betterment of our community. The Coastal Conservation League, Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF), and Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC) have collaborated and worked with community members, other local groups, city leaders, and the Ports Authority to be responsive to the desires of the people of Charleston, encouraging action such as this.

“We are thankful to the S.C. Ports Authority for listening to our concerns, responding to feedback, and providing an opportunity to formulate a community-led vision for Union Pier that we can all be proud of long into the future,” said Faith Rivers James, Executive Director of the Conservation League.

The community should take a moment to celebrate and reflect on the progress we have made together, but the work is just getting started. Charleston will need its citizens and leaders to remain enthusiastic, open to new ideas, and engaged in the planning process that lies ahead. This moment provides a unique opportunity that cannot be wasted.

“The Ports Authority has given Charlestonians an opportunity to develop a community-driven vision for the future of Union Pier, and it’s time to put this opportunity into action,” said Winslow Hastie, President & CEO of HCF. “We need the same thoughtful voices and engaged citizens who attended last week’s Planning Commission to remain focused and engaged and bring that same level of energy to the planning process that lies ahead.”

The Conservation League, HCF and PSC remain steadfast in their shared vision for the redevelopment of Union Pier:

  • Union Pier must be resilient and embrace both the natural and historic features of the site.
  • Union Pier must be of appropriate size, scale and character to serve as an extension of our historic city.
  • Union Pier must provide real benefits to all people of Charleston, ranging from ample public greenspace to substantial affordable housing.

The coalition is glad that the City and the Ports Authority are recommending a new future land use category be created for the Union Pier area in the city’s comprehensive plan: a waterfront district.

“We are excited and grateful that the city now has breathing room to ensure a truly world-class plan can be developed for Union Pier that is driven by community values, not profit,” said Brian Turner, President & CEO of PSC. “This shows that grassroots community advocacy remains an effective way for citizens to engage in solutions-oriented discourse that is positive and forward-looking. We owe a debt of gratitude to all the individuals and organizations that stepped up and made a difference.”


The Coastal Conservation League has worked with communities, businesses, and citizen groups since 1989 to protect what we love about South Carolina. The Conservation League is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Learn more at

Founded in 1947, Historic Charleston Foundation is an advocacy organization advancing the mission of historic preservation. As historic preservation has evolved into more than a movement to simply save historic buildings, the Foundation has broadened its scope into balancing the needs of modern society with protecting the sensitive fabric of the historic district. Learn more at

Founded in 1920, the Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC) is the oldest grassroots preservation organization in the nation. The PSC is more resilient than ever as it enters its second century serving as a strong advocacy leader for preserving Charleston’s distinctive character, quality of life, and diverse neighborhoods. For more information on the Preservation Society of Charleston, please visit


Media Contacts:

Lily Abromeit, Coastal Conservation League, [email protected], 785-766-5343

Sam Spence, Preservation Society of Charleston, [email protected], 704-942-0689

Roualeyn de Haas, Historic Charleston Foundation, [email protected], 843-437-8300

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