Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review gave conceptual approval to redesigning the open space outside the Gaillard Auditorium, even as local residents said it was setting up the area to be a venue for concerts and gatherings.
Part of the makeover includes space designated as an “event lawn” and “banquet terrace.”
By some estimates, the site could support thousands of people.
“It’s not about consumer activity, it’s about generating income for the Gaillard Center,” said Robert Gurley, assistant director of the Preservation Society of Charleston.
Gurley was one of more than a dozen people who spoke out against the proposal at Wednesday’s BAR meeting, asking the plan to be delayed or voted down.
Most of the opposition came from nearby residents and historic and neighborhood groups who questioned how people and car traffic would flow in the area, as well as the availability of bathrooms during events.
The redesign of the outside landscaping is part of the multimillion-dollar makeover of the aged auditorium into the Gaillard Center. The building’s design was not part of Wednesday’s meeting.
As envisioned, the park will be more divided and landscaped, though it will continue to provide a reinforced turf-play area for the adjacent Buist Academy school.
To make the redesign work, the rose garden in the middle of the park will be moved closer to Calhoun Street. Benches, walkways and shrubbery will be added as well.
Opponents contend the focus will be on opening the site up to more events.
“I see outdoor rentable areas here, as opposed to outdoor space,” said resident Jim Scott.
BAR member Robert DeMarco said the body’s role was to approve design concepts, not to address what uses the site may be used for.
He also pointed out that many groups have used the site over time to host large gatherings, including the Cooper River Bridge Run.
The overall design, he said, was extremely pleasing and that he expected the area will become “a place where people will gather.”
Final approval will come later.