Plans for Ginn Co.'s Promenade take shape

Ginn Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bobby Ginn (tan shirt at right) heads up the Monday planning session for Promenade at the Charleston Maritime Center.

The Ginn Co. on Monday unveiled its development concept for Promenade, involving 1,500 hotel, condo and townhouse units, a large amphitheater and stores and offices along Town Creek.

Gone are the company's initial plans to build a golf course on the nearly 200-acre site off Morrison Drive, just north of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge's East Bay off-ramp in Charleston.

The land is the site of Charleston County's former Romney Street and Holston landfills.

The Ginn Co. and the city are holding three days of public workshops to collect input on the plans, which started changing Monday almost as soon as they were rolled out.

A proposed 10,000-seat amphitheater was moved from the north side of the development, where it would have been prominent in views from nearby Magnolia Cemetery, to the south side, close to the bridge.

City planners who attended the workshop also offered comments on reducing the mass of three proposed waterfront hotels, one of which was estimated to be 160 feet tall.

Ginn Co. founder Bobby Ginn said he expects that the plans will continue to change as the workshops continue today and Wednesday.

"We hope to have this (planning) process done by the first quarter of next year," he said.

Ginn said his goal is to get through the planning process, line up development partners and build infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, and be ready for occupancy in about 2 1/2 years.

The Ginn Co. spent more than $35 million to buy the two landfills and several properties on Morrison Drive that comprise the development area.

Anything built on the landfill would sit upon concrete piers up to 100 feet deep, reaching through the buried trash and fill from river dredging into the bedrock below.

Ginn said that as part of the planning for Promenade, his company already has spent about $5 million hauling in dirt to provide a thicker cap atop the landfill. He also said he bought a tree farm where about 27,000 trees are growing in anticipation of transplanting them to the development.

The first development workshop attracted few people from the surrounding East Central community but numerous developers, city planning staff and others familiar with development planning.

Cynthia Jenkins, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, took a look at the plans and was pleased to see there won't be a golf course.

"Downtown golf left in the 18th Century, and it needs to stay gone," Jenkins said, but she worried that the large mixed-use development now envisioned could have a negative impact on the nearby historic cemeteries.

"I'm afraid it will look like a theme park," she said. "I hope I'm wrong."

City Councilman Wendell Gilliard said he thinks Promenade "could be a success story" if the developers reach out to the surrounding community, which includes several public housing projects, and work with them to create jobs and other opportunities.

Charleston Planning Commission member Valerie Perry said she hopes the developers will try to maximize the amount of green space and minimize the amount of asphalt on the site.

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