Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The cost for planning the State Ports Authority's cruise terminal redevelopment has nearly doubled to about $1.3 million, but the higher price tag comes with a significantly broader scope of work, officials said.
The SPA's board on Tuesday agreed to pay New York-based urban design firm Cooper Robertson & Partners an additional $563,000 to study not the 15 to 18 acres as originally envisioned but the entire 55-acre Union Pier Terminal in downtown Charleston.
The terminal's operations currently include exporting and, to a much smaller degree, importing BMW vehicles.
SPA Chief Executive Jim Newsome said the change followed requests from the public received at a "listening session" held by Cooper Robertson at targeted meetings and through a Web site set up for the project.
Those who participated asked for a more attractive terminal, traffic planning, better public access to the waterfront and a design that fits the surroundings, according to port officials.
Charles Rhoden, president of a consortium of 15 downtown neighborhoods and past president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, said his organizations asked for a traffic study and a tourism management plan involving city, port and tourism officials.
Residents want to see better communication between those entities, according to Rhoden, and a true picture of a cruise's economic impact on the area.
Also, they want assurances that visitors can see more of Charleston than the City Market sheds directly across from the cruise berth, he said.
"We want people who are here for a cruise to know that Charleston is not Disneyland," Rhoden said. "It's a living, breathing, working city. We want them to come here with the understand that its a real city, and to act and dress accordingly."
The terminal will accommodate nearly 70 large cruise ships this year, beginning next month.
Port officials expect Cooper Robertson to complete its study by early April. The firm's resume includes Waterfront Park, the Visitor Reception and Transportation Center and the College of Charleston School of Education.
Cooper Robertson's work on the cruise terminal comes with five goals: developing a viable facility that fits within historic Charleston; making security adjustments required by federal law; reducing cruise impacts on city traffic and infrastructure; increasing public access to the waterfront; and developing future purposes for the rest of Union Pier.
The SPA eventually aims to transfer its roll-on/roll-off cargo business from the north end of the downtown terminal to the North Charleston Terminal, but nothing has been finalized.
By Allyson Bird
The Post and Courier