The controversial downtown Union Pier project to develop 20 large buildings and 1,600 dwelling units in the middle of historic Charleston is facing a challenge from a different kind of foe — a satiric website called DisUnionPier.com.
The site, filled with rubs poking fun at the project sponsor, the S.C. State Ports Authority (SPA), and its developer Lowe, includes this bold opening: “Charleston has an opportunity to reimagine its waterfront and rebuild Union Pier into a special place all Charlestonians can enjoy. Unfortunately, this sure as hell isn’t it.”
The Charleston City Paper has tried to uncover the developers of the website, which was created just in time to stir things up before a 5 p.m. June 7 Charleston planning commission meeting in the Ports Authority Passenger Terminal, 196 Concord St.
The Union Pier project aims to redesign the 64 acres around a passenger terminal near 32 Washington St. It seeks to “create a new mixed-use neighborhood that has significant public assets for the people of Charleston,” according to the original website.The Union Pier tract is land deeded in 1994 by the City of Charleston to the SPA. The agency did not respond to inquiries about the project or satiric site.
Many of the historic buildings around East Bay Street and area neighborhoods near Union Pier reach two to three stories. The current plan for Union Pier calls for hotels, commercial buildings and hundreds of housing units with buildings that could reach eight stories. The project offers few affordable housing options.
Site got some attention
DisUnionPier.com got the attention of some of those challenging the port’s plan for Union Pier.
Winslow Hastie, president and CEO of the Historic Charleston Foundation, told the City Paper he thought the website revealed the danger of the proposed plan for Union Pier.
“With the seriousness and generational impact of this development, we too cannot help but laugh at the absurdity of this current proposal, its lack of critical analysis and specificity, and the speed of the process,” he said.
Hastie said beneath the humor of the website was some deeper meaning that showed the feelings of the community and the need for a real “community-led plan”.
Sam Spence, director of public affairs for the Preservation Society of Charleston, said Wednesday’s planning meeting on the Union Pier project is expected to be long.
“From the beginning, we have been saying that the fundamental assumptions of the project were wrong,” he said, adding he thought the buildings proposed were out of scale with the buildings around them. “Even the biggest ones,” he added.
DisUnionPier.com is almost a carbon copy of the original Union Pier website. But it adds a rendering of a towering Trojan horse in the idyllic art style of the original site. DisunionPier.com also mocks the SPA’s talking points and implies an aggressive ignorance of Charleston’s history
The SPA proposed a redevelopment plan in January. Two additional plans were then proposed, but few aspects of the overall plan changed. Between the three drafts, the biggest changes have been a park and different roof variations.
Links on the DisUnionPier.com website lead to a Charleston city website for citizens to speak or leave a comment on coming meetings.
The Union Pier project has received around 500 comments, many negative, on the public opinion portals. Most projects number around a dozen, according to Spence
Ahead of Wednesday’s public meeting, Charleston mayoral candidate William Cogswell has announced a press conference at 11 a.m. June 7 at the U.S. Custom House at 200 East Bay St. The conference will “outline his plan for the largest redevelopment opportunity in the city’s history.”