MENU
      component-social-facebook_share_api-v2-01

      Mayor Riley's 2014 State of the City address

      word map of Riley's 2014 speech. The largest words are those said most often.

      I am pleasedto report to you tonight on the State of your City.{} I begin by thanking you for your great job indealing with the winter storm and commend our amazing team of city employees - manywho stayed up through the night on duty to make you safe.{}

      The progress and achievements I outline tonight are a tribute to you -the citizens of Charleston, to our fine City Council and our hardworking anddedicated City employees.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Our economy is surging.{} In September, a Charleston company on DanielIsland, BenefitFocus, made its debut on the NASDAQ stock exchange and in Decemberannounced 1,200 additional jobs and a $60 million campus expansion.{}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The closely followed MillikenInstitute ranked Charleston the 11th best performing economy in ournation.{} Four Charleston hi techcompanies made the nation's fastest growing companies list. This follows on theheels of PeopleMatter, another rapidly growing hi tech company opening itsnational headquarters on Upper King Street last year.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The West Coast has SiliconValley.{} Without any doubt, theCharleston region has Silicon Harbor and this was further reinforced byGoggle's announcement of another $600 million investment in the Berkeley CountyData Center.{}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The hi tech economy is not, however,made up simply of large companies, but the work of countless entrepreneursstarting small initiatives or growing existing companies.{} It is the climate in our community thatencourages and reinforces these investments.{}

      An important part of that climate is the investment the City ofCharleston has made in its 2 {}Flagshipbuildings. These buildings have produced 76 graduate companies since 2009; thatis, companies that started in the Flagships and out through them moved to theirown new headquarters space.{}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Because of the success of our flagshipincubators, we intend to create Flagship 3.{}City Council approved in June the acquisition of a Morrison Driveproperty that will allow the creation of a 45,000 square foot, hi tech businesshive of activity.{}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The housing industry is also surging inresponse to the growing economy and also because people and their families wantto live in our neighborhoods and enjoy our quality of life.{} Last year, new homes were being built inevery section of our city; 829 to be exact - the second highest number in Cityhistory.{} Also, a record number of newapartments, 912, were constructed.{} The lanMidtown Apartment Building was the first new apartment residential community builtin the peninsula in 50 years.{} The totalconstruction in the City last year was $700 million.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} After a competitive process, a masterdeveloper was selected for the Horizon District.{} This will be a new residential and commercialneighborhood to allow the Medical University of South Carolina's researchactivities to ripen into new business and job opportunities. This district willtake at least 2 decades to completely unfold, but in time it will be a robustpart of this region's economic engine.

      {}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The remarkable revitalization ofHistoric King Street continues to unfold as the Midtown development getsunderway.{} This $80 million developmentwill contain 2 small hotels, office, hotel and conference space, a 405 spaceparking facility and will open in March of 2015.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} A block north, we will begin to seethe first phase of Courier Square. This vacant parcel will be transformed intoa beautifully designed office building and adjacent residential community.{} Having people live and work adjacent to eachother in the Meeting Street and King Street corridor will insure vitality,livability and economic success.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} West of the Ashley has seen aremarkable revitalization of commercial districts.{} South Windermere, one of the first shoppingcenters in South Carolina, has been beautifully renovated and is robust in itsactivity as is the equally one-time pioneering St. Andrews ShoppingCenter.{} And across the street from St.Andrews is the Avondale Point that likewise is experiencing a renaissance.

      {}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} A committee of City staff, along withme and West Ashley City Councilmembers, will be working on the excitingcontinued revitalization of the West Ashley business districts.{} We have retained a national consultant andwill be working with landowners in the Savannah Highway/Sam RittenbergBoulevard retail neighborhoods and with a special relationship with the CitadelMall.{} The Citadel Mall is under newownership.{} This 33 year old retail centerhas many strong performers.{} Belks,Sears, Dillards, J. C. Penney, Target, Dick's Sporting Goods, and the cinemaare extremely successful and see growing revenues every year.{}

      {}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Also, what is growing are thebeautiful older as well as new neighborhoods; more people are moving in,housing prices becoming even stronger.{} Thisis the sure recipe for further growth in the retail sector.{} We believe that the Citadel Mall and itsadjacent retail neighborhoods have an extremely bright and exciting future andwe will be energetically working with them as we have in other sections of ourcity.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The Supreme Court unanimously rejectedthe almost laughable lawsuit brought by cruise ship opponents. I say almostlaughable not lightly.{} The only reasonfor the lawsuit was a hope that it would scare the cruise ships away.{} And it did not.{} The lawsuit claimed that the logo on the Carnival'ssmoke stack violated the City's sign ordinance, that the ships violated theCity's height ordinance and, of course, large ships have been calling onCharleston for a long time.{} Other suchfoolish claims were made. {}The PortsAuthority and the City joined in the lawsuit and fought vigorously to have itdismissed - and it was.{}{} We look forwardto being able to begin the construction of a new cruise terminal and then allowfor the careful planning and redevelopment of the southern part of Union Pier,which now has rusty and ugly warehouse buildings and will be transformed into abeautiful part of this city giving our citizens more access to our harbor.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Also, great progress continues to bemade on the deepening of Charleston Harbor to 50 feet or deeper.{} The harbor deepening is essential for thecontinued growth and development of our port and the business activity in ourregion and state which the Port of Charleston supports.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The $ 30 million Market Streetdrainage project continues apace.{} Hereyou can see the 9 foot tunnel that will collect storm water.{} It will be half a mile long, 140 feet underthe city.{} This very complicatedengineering construction project will be completely finished in 2 years.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Construction of the $20 million Phase IIof the Crosstown drainage project shall begin this spring.{} This will continue the installation of newsurface storm water collection infrastructure and will extend from PresidentStreet to the Ashley River and then south on President Street to Bee Street andnorth on President to Fishburne, east on Fishburne and north on AshleyAvenue.{} Also, as a part of this project,8 shafts will be sunk to a depth of approximately 140 feet to connect with the3rd phase tunnel system.{}{} We expectto begin construction of Phase III, a 12 foot diameter tunnel, this fall.{} This $54 million tunnel will be a mile and ahalf long; 140 feet under the City running from under Coming Street to theAshley River. Phase IV will be a pump station to be constructed between the 2bridges.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The St. Andrews/ Forest Acres drainageproject is nearing design completion and will be out for bids this fall. These4 drainage construction projects have a total cost of $112 million and arefunded and under, or soon will be under, constru

      ction thisyear.

      The East Calhoun Street drainage system will be receiving qualificationsfrom engineers at the end of February.{}{}

      Needless to say, a lot is happening on modernizing the City ofCharleston's storm water utility system.

      A construction project that is very visible is the rebuilding of a partof the Battery.{} This $2.8 millionproject, as you can see, is well underway.{}An added benefit of rebuilding this section of the Battery will be a handsomelyand carefully designed handicapped ramp that will allow all citizens to be ableto transition from High Battery to Low Battery. The next phase of the Batteryseawall restoration will be High Battery, which will be carefully restored, andthen following that will be section by section restoration of Low Battery.{} As with our historic structures, the City iscommitted to restoring this important, historic and beautiful part of ourwaterfront access.{} There are fewpromenades as spectacular as the Battery anywhere in the world.

      Last year violent crime in the City of Charleston decreased 17%.{} In fact, serious crime has declined over 70%in the last 7 years.{}

      Crime reduction does not happen automatically.{} It is created by hard work and communityengagement.{} This last year, the Cityadded our School Security Response Team.{}An additional 19 officers who work closely with all of the schools inour city were added in light of the tragedy in Connecticut to make sure we hadthe best school security program in America and I believe we do.

      {}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} We were awarded a competitive grantfor additional police officers whom we will add to community action teams thatgive us a greater capacity and resources to work in our neighborhoods thatproduce additional challenges.{} Our PoliceDepartment also knows that their success is dependent upon a positiverelationship with our neighborhoods.{} ThePolice Department sponsors summer camps so that young people get to know policeofficers in a positive way and see them as role models.{} The new Friday Night Lights program, engagingcommunity and children with our police officers, has been a huge success. And,the West Ashley community Stand Up Charleston program could be a nationalmodel.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Weare very proud that Chief Mullen won the state of South Carolina Recreation andParks Association 2013 Champion Award for his role in working closely with arearecreation initiatives.{}

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Chief Karen Brack and the members ofour Fire Department continue to excel; opening the newest and largest firestation this December.{} Station 9 willnot only be able to house 8 different firefighting and lifesaving apparatus, itis also designed with strong seismic reinforcement to function as an excellentcentral space in times of natural disaster and in addition to accommodating 8 companiesof firefighters, has a large room that will serve for department personneltraining, planning exercises and also a community room for adjacentneighborhoods.

      {}This year we were so proud thatBattalion Chief Brian Kleskie was named the Safety Officer of the Year for theUnited States by the Association of Fire Chiefs; recognized for hisaccomplishments in fire safety.{}

      City Council authorized the construction of 2 new fire stations; one onthe Cainhoy Peninsula{} and the other atthe Carolina Bay neighborhood.{} Planninghas begun on those stations.{} And we hadthe largest acquisition of fire equipment in our City's history.{} Three sparkling new fire engines haverecently arrived, a new 104 tiller, which is a fire aerial truck that has frontand rear drivers so as to be able to maneuver the intimate spaces in our cityand successfully fight multi-story fires. Also, a new aerial tower has beenpurchased for the Bees Ferry station and a state of the art hazardous materialmulti-purpose van.

      Also, the Medical University is partnering with our Fire Department toteach emergency medical technician classes at our training facility. The FireDepartment was licensed by DHEC to operate an emergency management trainingfirst responder license, which allows our personnel to operate on a higherlevel of care when functioning as the first responder and can assist patientswho have breathing difficulties as well as administer certain medicines andother important other lifesaving practices.{}

      A City park belongs to every citizen and to each person the park serves adifferent need and creates special memories.{}Our growing city should have a growing and improved park system.{} Under construction West of the Ashley is thenew Northbridge Park.{} This park willgive access to the Ashley River: a place to relax, to picnic, walk on the pier,to fish, take your kayak and so much more.{}This park beautifies what had been a scruffy, forlorn area adjacent tothe North Ashley River Bridge. This park began with an idea of an 11thgrader, Miranda Caruth.{} Her sketch,stemming from her love of her city, will soon be this park.{} Miranda, now a junior at USC was with us forthe groundbreaking.

      {} In the Maryville community are 2special opportunities for new access to the water's edge.{} Higgins Pier will soon be under constructionat the end of the West Ashley Bikeway. It was once a railroad trestle.{} From Higgins Pier, as you can see, the viewsare extraordinary, whether it's the playful dolphins or the vista of the AshleyRiver.{} The pier is named after LeonardHiggins, a tireless leader and neighborhood council president.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} Not far from Higgins Pier,as the crow flies, there are 2.6 acres on the water's edge that form a part ofthe Charlestowne Landing viewshed.{} Thisproperty was slated to be developed.{} Youwould then have been able to see a large development as you looked out fromCharlestowne Landing.{} With the creationof a park, the view from the birthplace of our state is protected and there isyet another wonderful opportunity for residents of our city West of the Ashleyor visitors to view the remarkable Ashley {}River vista.

      The City of Charleston proudly acquired the Angel Oak in the 1980's toopen it to the public and to preserve its health and later we were able to add6 acres as a buffer.{} Last year, with theleadership of Chairman Teddie Pryor, Vice-Chairman Elliott Summey and themembers of County Council, Greenbelt funds were made available to assist in thepurchase of 17 acres adjacent to the park.{}The City of Charleston and the Lowcountry Open Land Trust madesubstantial contributions to make it possible.{}Just last month after very difficult negotiations, we now have theopportunity to acquire 18.7 acres.{}Therefore, Angel Oak will be part of a 45 acre passive park.{} We look forward to working with the citizensof our community as we plan this newest addition to the community's parkssystem.

      Colonial Lake, which can trace its heritage as a public space from thelate 1700's, is going to undergo a $5 million restoration, which will includeimproving the water quality and an even more beautiful public park in ourcity.{} This will be a wonderful publicprivate partnership with the City of Charleston and Charleston Parks Conservancy.{} Over $1 million has been privately raised tosupport the transformation and enhancement of this special historic park in ourcity.

      The Charlotte Street Park is the transformation of a gritty terminationof Charlotte Street into a small, beautiful passive park and contains a specialmemorial to the City of Charleston's Irish ancestry.{} And, a tiny park adjacent to the historicWentworth Street station was created honoring former Mayor Courtenay.{}

      {}

      The Gaillard Performance Hall construction is on schedule.{} This will be one of the great performancehalls in America.{} It will be a cherishedplace for all of our citizens from school children to their great grandparents.{} And, most wonderfully and generously,one-half of the cost of this civic building is through generous privatedonations.{}{}

      When{} {}I was a child, there was a billboard in theCity that said "Welcome to Charleston- America's Most Historic City".{} Certainly Charleston, if not America's mosthistoric city, it is one of America's most historic cities.{} So many important parts of American historyoccurred here or Charleston played an important role in them.{} Such is the case with a part of the Americanhistory that we know comparatively little about, and that is, African Americanhistory.{} To be sure, it is Americanhistory.{} Forty percent of all enslavedAfricans who were brought to North America came to Charleston.{} Their impact upon this city and theirdecedents upon our country deserve a far fuller study and presentation than nowexists.{} The International AfricanAmerican Museum will be an institution of national significance.{} We have been in discussion with the Directorof the National African American Museum in Washington, which is underconstruction and part of the Smithsonian system.{} We believe our museum can become an affiliateof the Smithsonian.{} City Council andCounty Council have each committed $12.5 million towards this institution,which will among other things have a tremendous economic impact for our regionand our state.{} We are seeking statefunds and private funds to enable this important institution to be built.{} We are working closely with the AveryInstitute of the College of Charleston in this important initiative as well.{} Our goal is to begin construction two yearsfrom now.

      {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The City has assisted inproducing thousands of apartments or homes of affordable housing -- none morecomplicated or special than this wonderful combination of new and renovatedresidential structures on Engel Street just off of the Crosstown.{} A combination of apartments, managed by theCity Housing Authority, and homes create a wonderful new neighborhood in anarea that only recently was marked by vacant lots and dilapidatedstructures.{} I don't believe there is abetter model in America of a small neighborhood restoration than this.{}

      {}

      We are so proud of the new and beautifully renovated schools in ourcity.{} Some of our older schools werefaced with serious structural, seismic and other deficiencies and the SchoolDistrict commendably agreed to their complete renovation.{} Memminger, Charleston Progressive, BuistAcademy and James Simmons are wonderful brand new schools.{} These schools are in every sense of the wordbrand new even though some are in historic renovated old structures.{} The School District has earned historic preservationawards and has earned the appreciation and thanks of the school children andtheir families who will benefit from these newly built schools.{} Bill Lewis, Director of Construction forSchools, gave tremendous leadership and energy to make this happen.{} He is retiring from the School District afteran illustrious career.{} We owe him aspecial debt of gratitude.{} These schoolsremind us that there are still schools in our community that need renovationand new schools built to replace classroom trailers.{} {}{}{}Ibelieve it is important that we extend the one cent sales tax for schoolconstruction.{} The economic growth thatthis region is experiencing is not one-sided.{}We must have world class education for our children and that demandstwenty-first century world class schools.

      Also, our library system needs expansion and updating.{} The nature of libraries becomes even moreimportant in the digital age.{} We willhave an opportunity to vote to enhance a most precious asset we have and thatis the freedom to access knowledge.

      Our First Day Festival this August was a wonderful success with 10,000students and their families celebrating the beginning of another year ofeducation. In addition to our hard working City staff, 400 volunteers help makethis very special and memorable event possible.

      {}I have the special privilege ofworking with my Youth Commission of student leaders from many of our highschools, who come together to share information, ideas and concerns with eachother and to help me and our city better and more fully understand thethoughts, challenges and needs of the next generation.

      The City of Charleston is so proud to continue to be ranked at the verytop of so many lists including the Conde Nast list of favorite city in the USto visit and one of the top in the world.{}

      Adding to things to see when one comes to Charleston, and just asimportant for Charlestonians to see, is the beautifully new renovated replicaof the Best Friend of Charleston - America's first regularly operated passengertrain.{} In a beautiful new building builtadjacent to our Visitor's Center rests the Best Friend. Working with historiansand exhibit designers, the Best Friend will be a part of a museum free to thepublic and will be opening in early March.{}It's something we will all want to see.

      Of course, as we celebrate our much deserved popularity as a place tovisit, we must be ever mindful of our responsibility to manage this city andmanage our tourism industry.{} Charlestoncreated the first tourism management plan in our country.{} It has been updated since then and we havedeveloped a number of regulations including the management of visitoraccommodations which we are updating this year as well.{} However, I believe it is time for a freshlook at our tourism management plan and therefore have created the TourismManagement Plan Advisory Committee.{}

      Tonight we are honoring a special neighborhood leader with the Harold KoonAward, which is given annually to somebody whose service to their neighborhoodis inspirational.{} Tonight we honor JuliaMae Simmons, who is the Neighborhood Council President of Joseph FloydManor.{} Mrs. Simmons' example of caringfor her neighbors is so inspiring.{} As aneighbor wrote "in this present age when we place so much emphasis on materialthings and efficiency, we should remember too that service given freely andhappily to others is what{} sustains usand binds us together as a community".

      This is the State of your City - old in history but ever so young inspirit.{}

      Thank you and good night.

      FOLLOW US ON TWITTER