This past Thursday, we had the honor of hosting the second installment of our semi-annual Savannah Urbanism Speaker Series. We had the pleasure of having former Charleston Mayor, Joe Riley facilitate an open dialogue and present the solutions on difficult questions that are brought forth on growth, change and development in urban places like Savannah. Over the span of four decades, Mayor Riley’s time and service to the Holy City had the profound impact on virtually every facet of life throughout Charleston. His guidance and leadership in addition to his political acuity, restored and made the city of Charleston an international tourism destination, a focus of culture, art, as well as an economic powerhouse and representation for historic preservation and urban design.
We brought Mayor Riley to Savannah to present his work, tactics and impact that he had made on Charleston during his time in office. Mayor Riley had taken office in 1975, where the population was lowering and crime was high. Mayor Riley presented to us the principles of beautiful and livable cities, on building beauty in the urban environment. Charleston is a city that has kept not only it’s beauty in tact, but the remarkable human scale. Mayor Riley had started working in the poor sectors of the city, with the determination to build attractive, affordable housing spread out all over the city on vacant lots and restoring run down buildings.
While public housing was, and still is heavily subsidized for poor people, the good design added quality to the neighborhoods. Charleston has earned eleven awards in the past twenty-five years due to it showing our country that you can build housing for really poor people and make it beautiful while adding to the quality of the city. Mayor Riley’s impact on the city of Charleston goes to show that there is no excuse to build anything, that doesn’t add to the beauty of the city. Restoring and assembling beautifully designed public spaces and buildings in the Holy City, brought Charleston back to life and made it one of the most beautiful cities to visit and live in while generating great value and economic rewards for the City and its citizens.