Gaillard, museum at top of Riley’s list of priorities

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley gave his last State of the City address Tuesday. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Completing the Gaillard Center and making progress on the International African American Museum topped Charleston Mayor Joe Riley’s list of priorities in his 39th and final State of the City address.

Riley’s speech Tuesday at City Hall didn’t contain any surprises. He looked back a bit at accomplishments in recent years such as improving public safety. But for most of the half-hour speech, he outlined an ambitious agenda for his 40th year in office, including completing a management plan for the city’s entertainment district.

Construction delays have set back the completion of The Gaillard Center from April to late summer. But the building will be fabulous when it’s completed, Riley said.

“It will be one of the finest concert halls in America and I believe one of the most significant public buildings in the city’s history.”

Riley also championed the International African American Museum, a project that will top off his legacy of improving race relations in Charleston.

“This museum will enlighten all of us about our history, a part of American history about which we know so little,” the mayor said. “It is a compelling history of three centuries of tragedy, struggle and triumph. ... This museum will become a local and national treasure.”

The efficient speech was delivered to a full house, which held its applause — a standing ovation — until the end.

The mayor said the city’s improved public safety record included a 70 percent reduction in serious crime since 2006 and an initiative to address family violence.

Riley also touted the successful redevelopment of King Street, and expressed the need to develop a plan to better manage late-night activity, especially on upper King. “Like anything in life, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing,” he said.

Some candidates who have announced they will run for mayor in the November election attended the address, including: businessman John Tecklenburg; former City Council members Paul Tink-ler and Henry Fishburne; and current Councilman William Dudley Gregorie.

Several others who are considering a run also attended, including: Ginny Deerin, Riley’s former campaign manager, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, a Charleston Democrat; and City Councilman Mike Seekings.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.