The City of Charleston now has a blueprint to work with in developing a lasting memorial on the site of 2007's Sofa Super Store blaze that took the lives of nine Charleston firefighters. The 28-member Firefighter Memorial Commission presented its concept for the site design and function to the City Council last week. Officials will now look for a design firm to better firm up the final plans for the site.
The city purchased the property with the intent of commemorating the lost lives and to serve as an education resource for firefighters and Lowcountry residents, says Mayor Joe Riley.
"What the commission has put together could not be more appropriate for this hallowed site," Riley says.
There is $90,000 currently set aside for the 2.5 acre property.
Under the proposal, the spots where the firefighters were found would be preserved in a memorial garden. A facility of some sort, possibly including firefighter training or administrative operations, would front the property on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard as a way of buffeting the garden from busy traffic.
Gaillard Up Next for Redesign
A mysterious $20 million gift has spurred the city toward an ambitious $105 million renovation of the Gaillard Auditorium. Charleston has spent the past few years rehabbing some of the city's more significant public structures, including Memminger Auditorium, City Hall, and the Dock Street Theatre.
"The consensus had been that the venerable Gaillard Auditorium ideally would benefit and get a restoration," says Riley.
But financing would largely have to be found through a herculean private fund-raising effort. The anonymous gift, which included preliminary designs for the rehabbed facility, has moved the ball down field.
The preliminary designs from Davis Schwartz would replace the 20th century exterior with something more akin to Charleston's historic architecture. Inside, a second floor would be added to the spacious exhibition hall, and the performance space would be renovated with improved acoustics and better access for audience seating, including box seats that might help spur donations.
Riley says improvements, while expensive, are certainly worth it to give Charleston a state-of-the-art performance facility."