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Panel to name Hunley choice - North Charlston site leads the pack

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Postby TMSmalley » Fri Feb 13, 2004 8:17 am

Panel to name Hunley choice


BY SCHUYLER KROPF
copyright 2004 The Post and Courier

Officials are expected today to name which city gets the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley museum, with North Charleston the favorite.

Members of the state Hunley Commission are scheduled to meet this afternoon in Columbia to make a final choice, although any recommendation still would have to be approved by the Legislature.

Most indications give North Charleston the edge over Charles-ton and Mount Pleasant, with the decision hinging on money.

North Charleston has offered the most cash -- a minimum of $13 million -- to fund a state-of-the-art potentially $40 million museum on the banks of the Cooper River featuring the Hunley and its eight-man crew.

The offer made jointly by Mount Pleasant and the Patriot's Point Naval Museum has dropped from $8 million to $1 million after town officials tired of the 2-year-old search and pulled money off the table.

Members of the Hunley Commission, which is made up of state officials and appointees, have said the city of Charleston is probably out of contention because it scrapped plans for a solo Hunley museum on the waterfront and instead offered to display the sub in the Charleston Museum.

Some described the change as a dealbreaker.

North Charleston's $13 million offer may be too good to pass up, officials said, even though the city is less of a tourism draw than its two competitors.

"It is a very enticing offer," said Hunley Commission member Randy Burbage, who declined to name his top choice Wednesday. "If we go anywhere else, we're going to have to justify it to the people of South Carolina."

The Patriot's Point Naval Museum site is still in contention, Burbage said, but he added he was concerned about that financial offer.

Hunley Commission member Chris Sullivan also refused Wednesday to name his top choice but said he expects the full commission to endorse whichever site is named by the search committee today. Both bodies meet in succession at the Statehouse complex.

"We have at least two strong and good proposals," Sullivan said, adding, "I would expect the full commission to act on that recommendation."

State Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, who is chairman of the state Hunley Commission, could not be reached Wednesday. But in the past, he has said North Charleston's money offer is a significant indicator of a commitment.

"In tight times, you've just got to have money, and $13 million said a lot," McConnell told The Post and Courier in January.

"With grants, we could be looking at $20 million, which is halfway to the finish line. I love Patriot's Point, and it would have been a great location, but you can't ignore the commitment and design team North Charleston has. It's an overwhelming offer, especially if we could get some of the (Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority) money," he said at the time.

Other Hunley pursuers say the upfront money shouldn't be the only determining factor. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has repeatedly said the city's built-in tourist base should give Charleston the edge because its tourist visits are measured in the millions.

Mount Pleasant officials say the state already has a viable naval museum at Patriot's Point and contend it would be a waste of money to build another a few miles up the Cooper River.

"We seem to be a state of twos," said Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman. "We've got two medical schools, we've got two law schools now, and if this thing were to go to North Charleston, we'll have two naval museums."

North Charleston's plan includes making the 40,000-square-foot Hunley museum a focal point of the Noisette redevelopment project of former U.S. Navy property on the Cooper River. It would be centered at Pier Alpha, at the base's north end.

The museum, designed by Ralph Appelbaum, would combine the story of the Hunley, the world's first successful attack sub, with the history of the Civil War at sea through interactive displays and thousands of artifacts. State and private sources would have to be tapped to help covere the project's cost.

Today's Hunley meeting is set to begin at 2 p.m., in room 105 of the Gressette Building in the Statehouse complex in Columbia.
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Postby TMSmalley » Fri Feb 13, 2004 12:53 pm

Legislative OK, contracts next steps

BY SCHUYLER KROPF
copyright 2004 The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA--Road signs leading to North Charleston could soon include the line: "Home of the H.L. Hunley."

After three hours of meetings Thursday, the state Hunley Commission voted to put the Confederate submarine museum inside the former Charleston Naval Base. Now, the timetable moves forward as Hunley scientists must decide on a preservation plan and North Charleston officials begin planning the museum.

The decision comes after a two-year competition between Charleston, Mount Pleasant and North Charleston over which would display the world's first attack sub.

As the winner, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said he's elated and ready for a citywide Hunley promotion.

The Hunley is expected to be ready for display in about five years, giving the city plenty of time to secure additional financing and move forward with design and engineering studies.

Under the city's plan, the sub would be housed at the Navy base, which is being redeveloped for homes and businesses as part of the Noisette Project.

Summey said museum designer Ralph Appelbaum, who designed the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., is still on board for the project.

"We have an opportunity to share a larger piece of the tourism pie that the Lowcountry is known for," Summey said. "The decision shows we have come a long way as a community, and the future is as bright as it can be for us."

North Charleston's $13 million bid was chosen over proposals by the city of Charleston and a combined bid from the town of Mount Pleasant and the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Both offered far less money, and Mount Pleasant took $7 million of the $8 million offered off the table after the selection dragged on too long.

Early in the process, Hunley Commission chairman and state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charles-ton, indicated that Patriots Point might be the best choice.

The Hunley launched on some of its missions from a dock nearby, and the naval history museum is an established, state-owned tourist destination.

On Thursday, McConnell said North Charleston's package was
financially superior.

"The ideal thing would have been if we had all the money and could have been where the Hunley was launched from," he said. "But that's not the reality."

The sub went to a "city generous enough to have us," he said. "The dollars count to me, and I understand $13 million."

The decision to award the sub to North Charleston must still be approved by the Legislature, and contracts between North Charleston and the commission must also be worked out.

Very little of the $13 million in North Charleston's plan is in cash but instead would be collected over the next few years. The city's commitment includes:

-- $10 million from bonds that will be backed by the value of former Navy base property. As the federal property is sold into private hands, it becomes taxable for the city of North Charleston and provides additional city revenue.

-- $2 million from the scheduled $9 million sale of Navy base
property to a private company.

-- $50,000 a year to the Hunley's Warren Lasch Conservation Lab for as long as it continues to operate.

-- The deed transfer of several pieces of base property and building used to house, support and display the Hunley to the state Hunley Commission.

Thursday's decision did not come without controversy. Hunley
Commission member and state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, made a last-ditch attempt on behalf of Patriots Point.

"I'm not knocking the Navy base," he said, "but right now it's an industrial complex; it's not a Navy museum.

"I think location needs to be considered rather than money alone," Limehouse added.

He also noted that North Charleston's money is not "cash in-hand" but is dependent on outside factors such as issuing bonds.

Officials envision spending approximately $40 million on the Hunley museum located near Pier Alpha on the base's north end. It would tell the story of the sub, which on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, rammed a black powder charge into the USS Housatonic, becoming the world's first attack sub.

Excavation of the sub is under way at the Lasch lab and still needs some form of conservation. A probable choice is to put the sub in a chemical solution bath to neutralize 13 decades of sea salt trapped in its skin. If left untreated and unchecked, the salt would continue to eat away at weak points under rivets and panels, eventually destroying the vessel as a display artifact.

It would also house thousands of artifacts on the Civil War at sea, including items from the Southern Maritime Collection, a private collection of maps, paintings, weapons and artifacts the state bought for $3.5 million.

McConnell said North Charles-ton's financial package was too great to pass over.

"If we get strangled with a debt, I don't care how many visitors come, you'll never be able to sustain it," he said.

###
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Postby ray schwartz » Thu Feb 19, 2004 7:43 am

all three sites are probally within 20 min of each other..
i wanted mt pleasant site, but i would rather see it in north charleston ,then in charleston.
they have done a pretty nice job in north charleston right now.
c.s.a gallerise in north charleston has a lot of hunely books and paintings its worth the trip to see while your in n.charleston.
patriots point gift shop also has some hunley stuff.
and of course the current hunley muesum has some stuff.
in down town charleston there is a full size hunley on a street corner by the toursist center..the only big flaw is the spar is in the wrong place cause this was built many years ago..
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Postby TMSmalley » Thu Feb 19, 2004 10:44 am

Hi Ray -
I am going to be in Charleston in April - can you send me the address of the CSA gallery? It sounds interesting!
Thanks.
Tim

tmsmalley@yahoo. com
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