The first meeting of the 28-member Downtown Task Force on Friday, hosted by the Historic Charleston Foundation, was meant to give legs to ideas first raised on Jan. 6 at a "Future of the City" forum.

Katharine S. Robinson, executive director of the foundation and task force co-chair with Mayor Joe Riley, explained the rationale: Since the city adopted a new preservation plan in 2008, much has changed. Planned projects have fallen by the wayside or put on hold because of the recession. Yet many ambitious projects are in development and require a collaborative, cohesive approach.

"Are we moving in the right direction and at the right speed?" Riley asked.

Edwin Gardner, director of Heritage Strategy Group, said the building of Charleston Place signified the beginning of a grand city vision. "Charleston is a national model for sustainable growth, so we need a bold new vision," he said.

Task force members, who decided to form issue-specific groups, will convene repeatedly over the year to consider the impact of cruise ships and port expansion, in-fill projects, traffic and parking, the development of city "gateways," economic development, environmental degredation, public-private partnerships, support for retail and light industry and more.

At the next meeting, on March 26, the group will better define its collective vision.