The Charleston Visitor's Center parking garage was closed for about three hours Tuesday afternoon as police investigated a suspicious package on the garage's third floor.

The Visitor's Center itself, at 375 Meeting St., remained open during the incident, which lasted from about 1:30 to 4:40 p.m. But the four-story parking garage between Ann and Mary streets was closed, resulting in several dozen people who were unable to retrieve their cars from the garage.

A parking attendant reported finding a package on a banister in a stairway on the third floor about 1:30 p.m., Charleston police public information officer Charles Francis said.

The police Emergency Ordnance Disposal team, or bomb squad, was dispatched, along with the fire department and Charleston County EMS. The fire department kept its apparatus about a block away from the garage, at King and Mary streets.

Bomb squad members X-rayed the package, a cardboard box that was crudely taped, and determined it was safe to cut open for inspection, Francis said. It appeared to have been a child's art project. There were bottle caps and torn pieces of paper inside the package, he said.

A parking garage manager who wouldn't give his name said patrons who were kept away from their cars would not be charged for the additional parking time.

Reach David W. MacDougall at 937-5655 or .