Maher to lead Horizon


A city of Charleston urban planning expert who was in the running for a job in Florida will stay put to lead a 20-acre redevelopment on the peninsula’s west side. Michael Maher, founding director of the Charleston Civic Design Center, was named chief executive officer of the resurrected Horizon Project near the hospital district; it was announced Tuesday.

Maher was one of three finalists vying to become CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority in Jacksonville. He withdrew his name from consideration Monday after being offered the Horizon job.

“The Horizon Project is at a crucial point in its history, and strong leadership and continuity is very important to accelerate our momentum,” said Bill Baker, chairman of the Horizon Project Foundation.

Following a transition period at his current job, Maher said he will assume his new position on a full-time basis at the end of the year.

Jacksonville officials contacted him through a recruiter to see if he was interested in leading a new agency that would be responsible for revitalizing their downtown area.

“They were obviously very interested in the way Charleston has transformed itself, and they were interested in what we’re doing here in our role at the Civic Design Center,” Maher said Tuesday.

He added that the Jacksonville job “in some respects was the same opportunity that Horizon represents — transforming a part of the city that really needs more economic activity and diversity.”

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

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

Maher, an architect, has been in his current role at 85 Calhoun St. since late 2001.

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The Civic Design Center was created that year as a one-stop place where building industry officials and the public could review, discuss and debate land-use issues within the city.

Maher also has been deeply involved in Horizon. Most recently, he led a committee made up of city and Medical University of South Carolina officials that picked the real estate development team last month.

“To take it now from here to its implementation, its fruition, is something I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to do,” Maher said.

Gateway Development Services Inc. of Atlanta was selected to oversee the project. Its team includes Mount Pleasant-based retail developer WRS Inc. and multifamily-housing builder South City Partners.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572,