Preservation group’s concerns grow as Charleston booms


Charleston SC Rainbow Row

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As tourism and development booms in the Lowcountry and Charleston starts to rebound from the pandemic, The Preservation Society of Charleston says they have concerns on three main points.

“Coming out of the first year-and-a-half of COVID-19, we’re seeing a real demand for land-use and growth,” Advocacy Director Brian Turner says. “But also pressures on the city’s infrastructure from increased flooding, as well as what looks to be a turnaround year for tourism. All of these things put tremendous pressure on the city.”

That tremendous pressure, Turner says, is why the 101-year-old Preservation Society urges city leaders to take a holistic approach to these issues and listen to community voices, the voices of people who have lived here and are moving here.

With these “top-line issues,” Turner says, are other concerns. The organization breaks down each topic.

The PSC asks the city to think about the price tag on the sea wall, just one of several apprehensions they have with the billion-dollar project. The goal of the project is to protect the Charleston peninsula from “dangerous and costly” storm surge, according to the city and the Army Corps.

One of the Preservation Society’s concerns stems from how the cost will impact people not affected by storm surge; folks in West Ashley are not impacted by flooding but could potentially see a financial burdenas a result ofthe wall, the Preservation Society says.

The Army Corps and City of Charleston are already taking this into account, but the Society’s goal is making sure project officials don’t stop taking it into account.

Aside from the sea wall, The Preservation Society says some residential and commercial developments on the Upper Peninsula pose a threat to some of the more historical buildings in the city, specifically historical buildings that are less than 50 years old and don’t fall under higher scrutiny when the city’s Board of Architectural Review votes on demolition.

But Turner makes it clear the Preservation Society is not against development.

READ MOREThe Preservation Society’s full 2022 Advocacy Forecast

“When there are developments proposed, a few lenses we look at are whether they’re supporting affordable housing. That’s an important value to us,” Turner says. “Whether it’s good design, in character and consistent with how the city has developed historically.”

With new developments comes increased tourism, including cruise ships. Their concern with this is the potential for increased pollution and added congestion to an already-crowded downtown Charleston.

But the century-old organization says they aren’t against tourism, either; they simply want the city to thoughtfully approach how to handle it as the city booms.

“We invite everybody to enjoy Charleston for its beautiful, historic flavor and everything it has to offer,” Turner says. “But we also see the need for major leadership in the governmental and private sector to manage this growth in the best way possible for its citizens.”

Despite these concerns, the Preservation Society remains optimistic and supportive of the city. Turner says they will continue to utilize public input- it just comes down to city leaders listening.

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