It’s often difficult to peer into the future, but Mount Pleasant town officials should focus on what Patriots Point will look like in 50 years rather than the singular design of the National Medal of Honor Museum.
Patriots Point is on the verge of a major growth spurt, and what it will look like in the future won’t depend so much on the design of the museum as it will on what grows up around it. But make no mistake: The museum would be the nucleus of a new, larger wave of development, including a planned 60-acre resort complex and conference center.
It’s understandable that town officials and the citizen-based Planning Commission have been reluctant to green-light architect Moshe Safdie’s ultra-modern museum design. It would rise 99 feet out of the marsh, down from the original 125 feet but still exceeding the town’s 50-foot height limit. And years of fast-paced growth have created all sorts of pressures on the idyllic, highly desirable community.
The museum, however, represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a centerpiece for a major new tourism hub. And if there was ever a good reason for a zoning variance, this is it.
The museum should stand out, just like the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
The project has had setbacks that caused fundraising to stumble. But the foundation created to build the museum has since rebounded, installed a capable new CEO, expanded the board and signaled it’s ready to move forward.
Mayor Will Haynie remains unconvinced. He doesn’t like the design, thinks construction will be too expensive, and worries that foundation won’t be able to pull off the feat and the town will be left holding the bag.
But he should remember that the project is a national one proposed on state-owned land, and that Mount Pleasant stands to reap great benefits with few responsibilities other than approving the design and helping to pay for realigning Patriots Point Road.
Now, Medal of Honor Foundation CEO Joe Daniels is ready to submit the revised design for the town’s approval by the end of this month. And, if it is approved, he anticipates being able to meet deadlines set out in the contract with the Patriots Point Development Authority and get back to fundraising.
But Mayor Haynie and at least one council member have been working behind the scenes to engage a new architect and cobble together a public-private partnership to handle the construction. Even if well-intentioned, that’s not fair to Mr. Daniels or Patriots Point, and it’s ultimately unfair to residents across the Lowcountry who want to see the museum built, appropriately, at Patriots Point.
Sometimes important projects deserve special consideration. Take, for instance, Charleston’s Gaillard Center. It stands 187 feet tall.
But city officials didn’t reject the design because it violated height limits. They made an exception for what became an exceptional performing arts center.
Ideally, Mayor Haynie would get behind the museum foundation’s efforts. If not, perhaps he can at least give Mr. Daniels a fair shot at bringing what is now a six-year project to fruition.