Charleston’s Waterfront Park has been named one of the nation’s 10 Great Public Spaces, on a list that ranks the city’s park alongside landmarks like New York City’s Central Park.
“It’s certainly significant, because it’s setting a standard,” said Denny Johnson of the American Planning Association, which created the list.
Johnson said the association plans for the listing of great public spaces to be an annual event, but this year is the inaugural list.
Waterfront Park shares the honor with a number of nationally known public spaces, including Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore.
According to the American Planning Association, Waterfront Park was chosen for recognition due to the public access it provides to the waterfront, with unrestricted views of the Cooper River, amenities such as the iconic Pineapple Fountain, and the park’s contribution to the successful revitalization of downtown Charleston.
Last year, Waterfront Park was recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects and National Trust for Historic Preservation with a Landmark Award, which recognizes “distinguished landscape architecture that makes a significant contribution to the public realm.”
The 8-acre park was completed in 1990. The city then sold a 1.5-acre lot next to the park to condo developers for $2.58 million.
The developers of the condos, One Vendue Range, built a public art gallery by the park as part of the deal.
“This was a section of the city of Charleston that was underdeveloped in almost every way,” said Joe MacDonald an APA researcher who served on the review committee. “What the city decided to do was develop this as a public space, and preserve the waterfront access.”
MacDonald also said the park is just the right size and scale for the city.
The park features a pier with tables and swinging benches, a fountain that’s filled with playing children in the summer, the Pineapple Fountain, broad lawns, and paths both along the water’s edge and through the landscaped park interior.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley calls the park “this generation’s gift to the future.”