Charleston's most famous landmark scheduled for a facelift

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FYI: Nearly 4 Million Tourists travel to Charleston each year.

Charleston City Market renovations begin in January

By Ashley Fletcher Frampton
Published Oct. 13, 2009

A $5 million, top-to-bottom renovation of downtown Charleston’s historic City Market is set to begin in January, officials said today.

The makeover to the landmark buildings will include new roofs, floors, electrical wiring and paint; the addition of ceiling fans, security cameras and bathrooms; and repointing historic bricks, said Hank Holliday, a partner with City Market Preservation Trust.

A vendor works at the Charleston City Market (Photo by City of Charleston)The city of Charleston last year selected City Market Preservation Trust to manage and renovate the market. Principals are Holliday, Steve Varn and Laurie Thompson.

Officials with the private management group joined Charleston Mayor Joe Riley this morning to announce renovations plans.

The first phase of renovations will focus on the three open-air buildings between Church and East Bay streets. Work will begin on Jan. 4 and take four months to compete.

During that period, the city will close South Market Street between Church and State streets. Holliday said his group will install tents in that area to allow vendors to continue operating.

The second phase of work, expected to begin in the fall of 2010, will include the enclosed shops between Meeting and Church streets.

Though the private group will manage the renovations, plans call for the city to issue revenue bonds to fund the project. Income from the City Market will repay those bonds, Holliday said.

Charleston City Market around 1920 (Photo from Charleston Museum Archives) He said the City Market Preservation Trust has estimated the cost to be about $5 million for both phases. But he added, “The mayor is pushing us to bring it in at less than that.”

City Council is expected to consider the revenue bond issue in November.

The land on which the City Market sits was donated to the city in 1804 for a public market. Existing buildings were constructed in 1841. The last renovation to those buildings was in the early 1970s, Riley said.

The City Market now includes more than 40,000 square feet, which Holliday called “the most valuable commercial real estate in the Southern United States.” The market has 165 permanent vendors, 86 temporary vendors and 17 enclosed shops.

“Few visitors to Charleston consider a visit to Charleston complete if they don’t come to the City Market,” Riley said.

But Riley said he also wants to make the market “a must for locals.”

Holliday said his team has studied some of the nation’s top public markets, from Boston to New Orleans, in shaping their plans over the past year. They have hired David O’Neil, a consultant who works on public market projects nationwide.

Related links
Download a free map of the Historic Charleston Market area
View historic and modern photos of the Charleston Market
Go to the main home page of the Charleston City Market

The group officially took over management of the City Market from a prior management company in October 2008.

Varn said that renovations to the City Market coincide with the S.C. State Ports Authority’s planned renovation to its Union Pier, the access point for cruise ship passengers entering the city. Union Pier is located near the East Bay Street end of the market.

Varn said the two projects together will be catalysts to revive the entire market district.

Holliday and Varn together own more than 300,000 square feet of commercial space located around the City Market, including Planters Inn, Peninsula Grill, Hanks’ Seafood Restaurant, Mercato Italian Restaurant, the DoubleTree Inn, Hayne Street Inn and the Andrew Pinckney Inn.

Thompson is the former revitalization director for the city of Charleston and has been involved in the development of Charleston Place and Saks Fifth Avenue, among other downtown projects.

Several years ago the city renovated the Market Hall building, the front of the market that includes the second-floor Confederate Museum.

Reach Ashley Fletcher Frampton at 843-849-3129.

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