One of the most iconic locations in Charleston also happens to be a critical piece of flood prevention infrastructure and a prominent public space. It also needs to be replaced.
Tonight, city officials will present a preferred design for not just the replacement of the aging Low Battery seawall, but an entire overhaul of the area, including modifications to White Point Garden that would help connect that park to the water.
The ambitious plan could cost as much as $100 million and take as long as 10 years to complete, but it’s also a top priority for officials, especially after Tropical Storm Irma overwhelmed the Battery with a hurricane-like storm surge last month.
The first phase, potentially from the bend at High Battery down a few blocks past White Point Garden, could be completed in as little as two years based on the experience of renovating the High Battery a few years ago, according to Planning Director Jacob Lindsey.
It’s important to note that even a significantly raised seawall wouldn’t have prevented that flooding. The proposed height increase — 2.5 feet — would put the Low Battery at roughly the same level as the High Battery, which was also overcome by Irma’s surge.
However, removable storm panels could fit into renovated pedestrian railing to add another 3 feet or so to the effective height of the wall, which would help during a hurricane.
And a higher Low Battery will be needed one way or another to guard against the sort of routine tidal flooding that experts expect to become increasingly common in the future as sea levels rise. Water levels in Charleston Harbor already measure on average about a foot higher than a century ago, and data suggest that number will continue to increase over the next few decades.
Of course it would be relatively easy to simply build a higher seawall and call it a day. But the city wants to transform what is currently little more than an awkward walkway bordered by on-street parking into a true park space.
Plans call for raising the sidewalk and flattening it out while eliminating the parking on the water side of Murray Boulevard and reconfiguring parking on the residential side. Doing so would make it easier to walk along the water while also opening up more space for things like park benches and landscaping.
The idea is to create a waterfront promenade that would front almost the entire southern end of the peninsula.
But those plans aren’t final yet. City officials have held public meetings throughout the summer to present ideas to the public and gather input. The results of those discussions will be presented tonight at 6 p.m. at Memminger Auditorium.
And those interested can still offer input on what they would like to see come out of the Low Battery project as the city finalizes designs and moves into the next phases of work. Given the urgency of completing this project, now is the time to speak out.
Shoring up and improving the Low Battery means being proactive about future flooding. It means adding additional park space in a city that is growing rapidly. And it means improving quality of life with an attractive public place.