As I understand history, South Carolina’s colonial government decreed in 1768 that Colonial Lake and the marshlands surrounding it be set aside as a “common,” or a public pleasure ground. However, over the next century the city sold or leased much of the land.
Then in 1881, acting under a court order, the city passed an ordinance that required what was left of the land be preserved for public use. The ordinance held, and as leases expired the city began beautifying the area and installing a playground there.
That lasted until 1949 when the city allowed J.C. Long to erect a 14-story apartment building there, the Sergeant Jasper, even though the building cut off the lake from the Ashley River, had nothing in common with its surroundings and prevented a full-scale park from ever being established.
Which brings us to today, where Long’s legacy, the Beach Company, is tearing down the Sergeant Jasper so it can build something even bigger and more grandiose there.
If it succeeds, only the Beach Company’s investors and a handful of wealthy folks who can afford to live there will gain. Everyone else, the literally millions of residents and visitors now and deep into the future who could have enjoyed a park will be the losers.
The Beach Company should either give or sell the land back to the City of Charleston so it can be developed as the park it was originally intended to be — something everyone, not just the wealthy few, can enjoy for decades to come.
The city should insist on it to make amends for the bad decisions it made in the past.
And the Beach Company should insist on it because it is the only right thing to do.