The looming redevelopment of Union Pier, a cruise ship hub in downtown Charleston, is the type of opportunity that may only come once during a mayor’s tenure.

For former Mayor Joe Riley, a similar opportunity presented itself 40 years ago. And it changed Charleston forever.

In the 1980s, Riley bet his political career on luring a luxury hotel to the heart of downtown. At first, the idea was far from popular. The city spent over $100,000 in legal fees fighting challenges to the proposal, including multiple led by the influential Preservation Society of Charleston.

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