The International African American Museum got its final green light from the Board of Architectural Review to start construction, although some budget challenges have to be overcome before work actually starts.

The city board unanimously gave the project its final approval Wednesday.

The next step is to nail down a cost estimate, which organizers hope won't require any significant changes, according to architects from Moody Nolan, which has been working with Pei Cobb Freed & Partners on the design.

The opening date is set for fall 2019.

The board's approval came a day before lawmakers in Columbia unveiled a new budget that does not include $3 million that the museum got from the state last year. 

Supporters of the International African American Museum have been working to raise the final $19 million for the estimated $75 million project. That doesn't include the amount cut from the new state budget.

Fund-raising efforts have been boosted by the recent addition of some well-known and influential board members, such as Sheila Johnson, billionaire CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and owner of three professional sports teams.

Other recent additions to the board include Evie Colbert, a native Charlestonian and wife of CBS talk-show host Stephen Colbert, and Marva Smalls, a Florence native and executive vice president and chief of staff at Viacom.

The final presentation to the board Wednesday included an overview of some of the exterior features that are designed to remind visitors why the site is special. The museum will be built by the Maritime Center at Gadsden’s Wharf, where some 100,000 slaves entered America.

The museum is raised off the ground to give space to the site itself. A walkway will take visitors past kneeling figures between black granite walls, according to a presentation by the Mount Pleasant-based planning firm SeamonWhiteside, who has been working on the landscaping and site design.

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


A shallow pool will repeatedly fill and empty to show and then cover figures on the bottom.

Walls will be hung with Spanish moss.

Visitors can look inside giant sweetgrass baskets.

"This is a fabulous project, and I look forward to the final product being delivered," board member Jerome Clemons said.

NOTE: This story has been updated with the current names of the architects.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.