Charleston's iconic Colonial Lake is getting a facelift, and the public got the opportunity Tuesday night to view and discuss the planned improvements.
"This is a chance for people to come and see it and have one last opportunity to voice any ideas or suggestions," said Scott Parker, co-founder of DesignWorks, which is designing the park's renovations. "We're real close, and we're on budget."
The renovations due to start late this fall will cover both the water and the walking areas: water quality will be improved, the level of the lake will be raised by a foot or two, more lighting and plantings will be added and the park's concrete paths will be completely redone.
Around 75 new benches and a 1,000-foot seat wall will increase seating dramatically, said Parker, and additional trees will add some much-needed shade.
"We're excited that we're on the verge of being able to make this happen," said Charleston Parks Conservancy executive director Harry Lesesne. "It's been a long time coming."
The planned renovations will go before the Board of Architectural Review later this month. If given the green light, bidding for the project will begin in August, and construction should start in November.
Patty Cole of Rutledge Avenue said she hoped to see more than just joggers in the park in the future: maybe rowboats in the lake or something for the kids during the holiday season.
"We've lived here since 1975, and it's just really interesting to see what goes on here," said Cole, who attended the open house-style meeting with her husband, Roy. The two visit the park frequently when the weather is cooler.
Roy Cole said the plan was "grand," but said he was concerned about the upkeep.
"People are becoming more urban, I think. And they really expect more from their city," he said. "It's obviously a nice lake, but you can't do a whole lot of sitting out there. There's no shade. I think if they do it and they can maintain it, great."
The Charleston Parks Conservancy, the Historic Charleston Foundation and the city announced the $5.2 million project in fall 2013. The city has pledged $4 million, and the Conservancy, founded in 2007 by South Carolina philanthropist Darla Moore, is close to its goal of raising the remaining $1.2 million by September, said Lesesne.
"This is an iconic space in Charleston. People from all over the state and the region know Colonial Lake," he said. "We want to get people engaged in their parks, appreciating and supporting and using them. So we looked at this space and said, 'This is beautiful, but could it be even better?' All of our public spaces can be better, and when we make them better, we improve the community for everybody."