Although a Mount Pleasant town council committee last week voted down Michael Bennett’s request to construct 125-foot tall office and hotel buildings along the waterfront, the developer says height restrictions won’t derail plans to create a food hall as part of the Ferry Wharf project.
“We’ve been studying food halls around the country, and developing it as we go,” says Bennett, owner of Bennett Hospitality.
Bennett envisions a pair of long warehouse-style buildings, modeled in part after Charleston’s City Market, at the center of the complex at the foot of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. One of the one-story, 12,000-square-foot buildings could house a few restaurants, he says, while the other could be partitioned for use by multiple independent vendors.
“It’s almost like food trucks in a building,” Bennett says, reflecting on his visits to various food halls around the country. He was especially struck by Union Market in Washington D.C., where he watched customers huddle around an oyster bar; chat over coffee and buy fish to take home.
Union Market is owned and operated by EDENS, a S.C.-based developer: Bennett says representatives of EDENS are planning to check out the future Ferry Wharf in April. At this stage, it’s unclear exactly what role the company might play.
While some Mt. Pleasant food venues – most notably, Southern Season -- have struggled to lure visitors over the bridge, Bennett doesn’t think the food hall’s success is contingent upon tourist dollars.
“I don’t know that this is a tourist thing,” Bennett says. “These kinds of things, it’s beneficial if you have visitors, but there are a lot of these Mt. Pleasant folks going to Whole Foods.”
Even before Bennett breaks ground for Ferry Wharf, he might have an opportunity to experiment with the food hall format. He hasn’t yet decided what to do with a warehouse adjacent to the hotel he’s building on Marion Square, but says the space could easily host a contemporary food court.
“We could have some fun in that vein,” he says.