The concern over how Charleston’s growing tourist industry will affect everyday life in the city that many people call home continues to grow, as more and more visitors arrive each year.
For several years now, residents and city officials have debated how many tourists the peninsula can accommodate. The arrival of the Carnival Cruise line to Charleston is still an issue that residents feel very strongly about. A hearing was held April 12th in response to over 300 written comments sent to the Army Corps about the proposal to build another cruise port terminal, with the possibility of any impacts to air quality, water pollution, historic properties, and traffic congestion being at the forefront of some citizens’ concerns.
However, the most recent concern over the tourist industry’s boom in Charleston has taken another form; the construction of new hotels.
Charleston is a city that has long prided itself on its historic background and appearance—it’s not your average high rise city. All buildings within downtown Charleston are restricted to a height of 85 feet. In addition, Charleston is a largely residential city, full of brightly colored houses beneath oak trees on long, two-lane streets. As of 2010, over 34,636 people called the peninsula home, according to a city census. Given the great importance of tourism to Charleston’s economy and city residents’ powerful opinions over altercations to their homes, concerns over the construction of new hotels in Charleston have reached an all-time high.
Last year on the peninsula, four hotels opened downtown, and at least another four are in construction. Alarm rose among some residents when it was confirmed that the State Ports Authority office building on Concord Street, situated on Waterfront Park, would be redeveloped into a hotel room with over 225 rooms.
Mayor John Tecklenburg proposed a temporary moratorium in response to the new construction, an idea that was not supported by the City Council. Among Tecklenburg’s concerns were maintaining a diverse economy in downtown Charleston, along with striking a balance between satisfying resident’s needs and capitalizing on the tourist industry, which is a massive source of revenue for the city and its businesses.
In response to growing resident concerns and opinions, the city held a hearing on May 3 to allow the voices of people on all sides of the issue to be heard. This hearing will be part of an in-depth, 90-day study conducted by the city to examine how the growing tourist industry is affecting Charleston, and how they can best accommodate it.