In running for Florida job, Charleston planning expert to stay to oversee Horizon Project

Michael Maher is director of the Charleston Civic Design Center. (Staff/File)

Edward C. Fennell

The emerging Horizon Project on the peninsula’s west side was enough to keep from a city of Charleston urban planning expert from taking a new job in Florida

Michael Maher, an architect and director of the Charleston Civic Design Center, was one of three finalists vying to become chief executive officer of the Downtown Investment Authority in Jacksonville.

Maher told the Jacksonville Business Journal that he withdrew his name from the consideration after being offered the job of overseeing the Horizon redevelopment in Charleston.

“I think it’s fair to say when the Horizon board and others learned of Jacksonville’s interest in me, in my interviews, that they moved aggressively to try to keep me,” he told the newspaper today.

Maher has been in his current role at 85 Calhoun St. since 2002. The Charleston Civic Design Center was created that year as a clearinghouse where residents, builders and others could review, discuss and debate land use issues within the city.

Maher also was chairman of the selection committee that picked a real estate development team last month for the Horizon Project near the peninsula’s hospital district.

Delayed for years by the recession and other hurdles, the estimated $1 billion redevelopment plan was revived in July.

The goal is to transform the largely empty area at Lockwood Drive, Hagood Avenue and Fishburne and Spring streets, into 2 million square feet of apartments, offices and research space over the next couple of decades.

The city created a special tax district for Horizon in 2008 with the intention of raising money to pay for public roads, sidewalks and other utilities within the area.

A board made up of Medical University of South Carolina and city representatives, including Maher, picked Atlanta-based Gateway Development Services Inc. to oversee the project.