Mount Pleasant -- Land planners unveiled a design scheme Tuesday that could transform the outdated and financially strained military attraction Patriots Point into a mixed-use development and the focal point for the town.
Although light on details, the presentation by George Kramer with international urban design firm AECOM repeatedly invoked the term "synergy," that integrated sense of community decidedly missing from the warship museum and its surrounding waterfront land.
Kramer highlighted three goals for the 367 public acres that include a golf course, a hotel and a College of Charleston parcel: The plan would create a "grand harborfront trail and parks" stretching along three miles. It would redevelop Patriots Point as "Mount Pleasant's peninsula." And it would use and expand upon the exhibits to develop an iconic place.
"Let's bring the public back to Patriots Point," Kramer said.
The concept calls for at least 2,000 private homes, a hotel with a higher price point than other Mount Pleasant lodging options and a "town center" retail format. Kramer described the proposed landscape as a "diverse, authentic, walkable character place that has appeal to the residents who want to live there but is also relevant to visitors."
The master plan means installing a network of roads to transform the area into a neighborhood. The finished product would satisfy the public desire for shopping, people-watching, entertainment and dining.
Kramer pointed out that, as it operates now, the prime state-owned waterfront property lacks any continuity. From the golf course to the warships, each piece takes on a separate identity.
The master plan compared Patriots Point to waterfronts in Toronto, Sydney, Baltimore and even Charleston. But Patriots Point, Kramer said, has become synonymous with its crown jewel ship, the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
"It's not a bad thing," he added. "But when we talk about Patriots Point, it should be so much more."
Patriots Point board Chairman John Hagerty asked about revenue the proposed redevelopment could generate and whether that return could go toward preserving the attraction's aging warships. The agency spent more than $9 million in state loan money for emergency repairs to the destroyer Laffey but cannot repay the funds, and now it cannot bring the ship immediately back to the attraction.
Hagerty said the amount of revenue the property generates could dictate the number of ships Patriots Point keeps, adding, "We need to know that number."
Kramer said the private lease-holders at the Patriots Point Links and the nearby Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina expressed interest in potential partnerships. He agreed to bring estimates to next month's board meeting.
Even if given the go-ahead from Patriots Point's board, the master plan still must receive approval from the state Budget and Control Board.
During a break in the meeting, Patriots Point Executive Director Dick Trammell pointed to the 2,500-square-foot gift shop on a map of the property.
"This is generating more for me than this 200 acres," he said, then pointing to the golf course. "That tells me the potential is out there."
More than 60 percent of the property falls under long-term land leases. Developer Vince Graham described the master plan as a public-private venture.
"It has to be that way -- mutually beneficial to the board and the state," Graham said. "It's got to work for the town, and it's got to work for the current leaseholders."
Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails called Patriots Point one of the town's "front doors."
"That 367 acres is certainly important to us," he said after the board meeting. "We really need to take a long, hard look at it. Patriots Point is so important to us as a tourist attraction."
The plan comes after nine months of work, including public forums and interviews with stakeholders such as businesses with leases on the property. Patriots Point agreed to pay AECOM $300,000 for the plan, plus as much as $30,000 in expenses.
Hagerty urged the board to consider the right long-term path for the land and not instant gratification. He also said the discussion should generate tension, because it's an important topic to the general public.
"A master plan is really just a catalyst to get people thinking," Hagerty said after the meeting. "You've got to start somewhere."
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.