Just as a new effort to build a Medal of Honor museum has emerged in the Lowcountry, a different group that's pursuing a similar but pricier project has narrowed its search to two cities far from South Carolina, after deciding not to build in Mount Pleasant.
The nonprofit foundation behind what organizers plan to call the National Medal of Honor Museum announced Wednesday that Arlington, Texas, and Denver are its final choices, CEO Joe Daniels said.
A decision is expected in September, about a year after Daniels announced his group was thinking of walking away from its original waterfront site at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.
Daniels had cited planning challenges with the town and concerns about whether the local tourist market was large enough to sustain the estimated $100 million-plus project.
Almost 7.3 million visitors came to the Charleston area in 2018, compared to about 32 million for the Denver metro area and 27 million for the Arlington region, which includes Fort Worth and Dallas.
Daniels said in a statement that the foundation has been "overwhelmed" by the positive reception from local officials in the two finalist cities. Public and private leaders "expressed a strong desire" to further the project, Daniels said.
The foundation also announced plans to build a monument in Washington, D.C., to honor Medal of Honor recipients. The nation's capital was also on the group's shortlist of possible museum locations, as well as New York City and San Diego.
The group looked at factors such as market size, tourism activity, community support and public transportation options when evaluating potential locations.
A new timeline and fundraising plan won't be determined until after the foundation picks a site.
The project originated in Mount Pleasant at Patriots Point, but organizers announced in October that they were expanding their search to other cities that draw more visitors. Afterward, the Patriots Point Development Authority terminated its land lease with the foundation.
A Post and Courier review of thousands of emails and other correspondence between museum leadership, town officials and Patriots Point board members revealed how tension and distrust had engulfed the project in the months before it dissolved.
Now, a new effort to build a local museum honoring Medal of Honor recipients has recently gained some support in the Charleston area.
Last month, Charleston County Council unanimously voted in favor of a plan to provide $5 million over 10 years to build the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Mount Pleasant. That project, which is being spearheaded by Medal of Honor recipient and retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston, would cost about $35 million, and it would likely be built at Patriots Point.
Though Livingston was once a key member of the foundation that Daniels runs, he left the group along with several other members in 2017.
Charleston County made its contribution conditional. The funds will only be released if Livingston and other organizers secure a minimum $3 million contribution from Mount Pleasant and $5 million from the state.
South Carolina provided $5 million to the previous museum project that's bound for either Texas or Colorado. The foundation has since returned the money.