American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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This Noisette Community Master Plan for the New American City is based on the Triple Bottom Line – a balance among people, planet, and prosperity – embodying the belief that sustainable cities must be equally responsive to social needs, environmental responsibility, and economic vitality.
History of Noisette Area Land Use
The recommended changes in circulation, open space, and land use represent a major transformation of those elements that are under utilized or do not contribute to a vibrant urban environment. Most importantly, the plan creates connections between revitalized neighborhoods and stable existing ones.
The Noisette Preserve will be a major environmental and educational resource giving the citizens the opportunity to experience the diverse ecosystems from the mouth of the creek, to the tributaries feeding the creek, to the highland forests along its western borders.
The combined efforts of natural systems conservation, restoration, and storm water strategies, and sustainable landscaping, will create the foundation for a richly layered environment where all systems are interconnected and function like a living organism.
Two major watersheds are the 4,700-acre Filbin Creek and 1,400-acre Noisette Creek. Through efforts outlined in “Chapter 4 - Natural Systems”, citizens of the community will become stewards of the environment who promote the "green infrastructure" for use by the people and wildlife.
“Chapter 5 - Restoring the Connections” is broken into four sections: Landscape, Open Space and Recreation, Transportation Systems and Utility System.
The Master Plan seeks to find ways to establish a sense of solidarity throughout North Charleston, while maintaining individual neighborhood character. This means raising up some neighborhoods to a reasonable level of care, while enhancing other neighborhoods to become even better.

The New American City: The Noisette Community of North Charleston, SC", North Charleston, SC
BNIM Architects, Kansas City, MO, & Burt Hill Inc., Washington, DC

"Great example at every scale of investigation. . .love the hand renderings. . . addressed the re-use of military bases and brownfields, important issues for our time. . . form driven, responds to the character of the place that it is. . . unclichéd. . .compelling presentation.."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

A topic of interest in today’s world is the closing of military bases across the nation. Some politicians will say that “closing bases can serve local – and national – interest” as reported in USA Today, May 13, 2005. “Shutting down unneeded facilities saves money, improves defense.” Many communities are worried about the impact on their community’s vitality and are fighting back vowing to sue the Defense Department. “Economic gloom and doom pervaded Charleston, S.C. in 1993 when the Defense Department announced the closing of the Charleston Naval Base. The 12,000 sailors and 5,400 civilian workers…were viewed as an irreplaceable leg of the area’s economy. But the Naval Base’s 1,400 acres along the Cooper River proved to be economic jewels…”

This Noisette Community Master Plan began with a vision for the New American City: A vibrant, healthy city, embracing its heritage and celebrating its role as a community, ecosystem, and marketplace. The vision is based on the Triple Bottom Line – a balance among people, planet, and prosperity – embodying the belief that sustainable cities must be equally responsive to social needs, environmental responsibility,and economic vitality.

The Master Plan responds to the City’s Pledge to its citizens, a set of principles that underpins a future of prosperity, opportunity, social harmony, educational excellence, and ecological restoration.

This Master Plan recognizes the necessity to move to a 21st Century infrastructure that is more economically and environmentally self-sustaining, to reclaim its natural resources, and to create not only growth, but a wise and sustainable redevelopment of its community. In this agreement, the Noisette Company pledged to develop this Master Plan, and to be the community developer that will transform the northern end of the former Charleston Naval Base, and a large portion of the surrounding city, into a sustainable City Center for the 21st Century.

This plan is the product of a five-year collaborative discovery process. The citizens, leadership, and professionals of North Charleston have contributed their wisdom and vision. The team of landscape architects, architects, urban designers, engineers, ecologists, educators, and artists assembled by the Noisette Company has been inspired by the culture and history of North Charleston and impressed by the level of interest and contributions from community leaders and residents during this remarkable five-year journey of discovery.

The first step of this master planning process is to inventory the assets, seeking to understand the essence of what makes this place unique. The planning team cataloged everything from the area's history to features relating to architecture, economy, environment, social fabric and infrastructure. The process of inventorying assets and analyzing the patterns of prior land use enabled the team to develop guiding principles for planning and development.

By analyzing the patterns of these developments, the planning team was able to understand the significant changes that have transformed the land from an undisturbed ecosystem into an urban community. As with most cities that have developed in this same time period, many of the natural systems have been profoundly transformed, often with unintended consequences.

A good example of this change is how the US Navy profoundly changed the land over the 20th century, dredging the river, filling much of the tidal marsh, and raising the lowlands to create more buildable land. Today, the creek is a channel for stormwater and wastes from the City. It is much less ecologically diverse, and less able to buffer storm events, increasing flooding potential. Intriguingly, in the few years since the Navy stopped maintaining the land around the Creek, the natural tidal forces have begun to reclaim the land, beginning the process of returning it to its natural condition. However, much more work will be needed to complete this task.

The next step was a series of community meetings in which residents and business owners identified and prioritized desirable improvements in their neighborhoods and in the City as a whole. City representatives offered additional guidance and worked to synchronize ideas with planning objectives set out in the City's Comprehensive Plan for redevelopment. They also aided in evaluations of funding mechanisms like tax incremental financing. Neighborhood break-out sessions provided additional opportunities for resident review and comment that led to further refinements in plans. The revised draft of the Master Plan was presented and approved by City Council in early 2004.

The process of inventorying the assets and analyzing the patterns of prior land use, enables us to develop the principles that will guide future planning and development. This community-based planning process has benefited from the insights and aspirations of the residents of the Noisette area of North Charleston, which were sought out through hundreds of community meetings and newsletter communications. Thousands of citizens described a strong, vibrant community but also identified needed improvements in their neighborhoods and the City as a whole. Concepts emerged for the different neighborhoods. The North Charleston government officials provided invaluable guidance about the concepts that were the most viable and best synchronized with their planning objectives. This input led to the synthesis of the planning recommendations contained in this Master Plan. In some cases, these recommendations reinforce stable development patterns that exist throughout much of the planning area. In other cases, profound changes are needed to realize these goals.

Over time, the City of North Charleston and the Noisette Company will jointly develop the elements of this plan, beginning the process of transformation to the New American City. In many ways, this master planning process has already contributed to the revitalization of the City, as seen in rising property values and the emergence of new businesses.

To achieve this vision and these goals, this Master Plan sets forth specific recommendations and guidelines to create the elements of this New American City. Each of the following topics are chapters in the Master Plan:

  • A Regenerative Land Use plan to create a mixed-use pattern, promoting a Live/Work/Play environment, revitalizing key portions of the City, and selectively increasing density. The plan includes elements to enhance the sense of neighborhood identity, while linking the diverse neighborhoods throughout the community. This Master Plan recommends specific tools to develop and implement these changes, in concert with existing land use ordinances.

  • A plan for Restoring Natural Systems so that they are integral to the functions and aesthetics of the city, and linking the roles of individuals, neighborhoods, and the community as stewards of the natural environment. This Master Plan is based on fundamental environmental principles for ecological restoration, conservation, native landscaping, and water management. A central element will be the Noisette Preserve, serving as a recreation area and education center for the citizens of the City and the greater Region.

  • A plan for Restoring Connections of the community through sustainable infrastructure improvements in transportation systems, open space and recreation, and utility systems. The Transportation plan is designed for diversity, inter-modal connectivity, adaptability to change, and multiple uses of transportation elements. The Open Space plan provides a range of recreation options and reconnects the City to the Cooper River. The Utility plan proposes integrated utility systems, designed for stewardship of natural resources.

  • Implementation of this plan based on Neighborhoods as Catalysts for Change. Each neighborhood should have a vital center, support a mix of uses, be pedestrian and bicycle-oriented, and have its own character and beauty. This Master Plan recommends specific changes on major corridors serving the City and revitalizes Park Circle as the historic symbol of the original garden city. Schools should become the centers of their communities, offering services, resources, and amenities to all the residents of a neighborhood.

  • Creation of a new community, the River Center at Noisette, utilizing a major portion of the former Charleston Naval Base. This vibrant new urban center will have a mix of uses, a range of density, a link to the history of the place, and a strong connection to the natural ecological systems. Art will be infused throughout the community in both traditional and impromptu forms. The sustainable design, construction, and operation of the built elements will make this a manifestation of the Triple Bottom Line, unifying social, environmental, and economic goals.

  • This master plan includes a phased Implementation Strategy, using tax increment financing as a key element to improve public infrastructure, bolstered by private investments. The project is phased over the next fifteen years, and beyond. This plan addresses the important first steps that will be catalysts for further development. It also considers diversity of housing opportunity, business incubation, transportation elements, recreational enhancements, and environmental restoration as key elements of creating a vital, robust urban center.

  • Initiatives and Strategies that are essential for sustainable change. The plan creates an institutional framework for sustainable community development, life-long learning, and restoration of natural resources. It also proposes strategies for arts integration and museum initiatives, high performance schools, housing for all, and historic preservation/restoration. Finally, it sets out initiatives for economic revitalization and tax increment financing.

  • A measurement methodology to establish standards for sustainable residential, commercial, and open space development. Benchmarks for Success, presenting standards for measuring, reporting, and learning from results. The Noisette Quality Home Performance Standards have been created specifically for the climate and geographical conditions of the South Carolina Low Country. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the definitive consensus performance standard for commercial and high-rise residential buildings. The Noisette Rose is a flexible tool developed to establish and measure specific sustainable goals for projects within the community.

Together, these elements form the integrated planning basis for establishing the Noisette Community of North Charleston as the leading sustainable redevelopment of an urban environment in the United States.


As part of “Chapter 5 – Catalysts for Change”, 16 street segments were analyzed and recommendations developed for lane reduction/streetscape enhancement, neighborhood infill, improved connectivity, special zoning and infrastructure upgrades, and improved pedestrian links and open space.
Proposed City Center on old Naval Base.
Under the Master Plan, the company will develop the old Naval Base property into a high-density, mixed use residential/commercial/civic center that will serve as both an economic engine for the community and a social/cultural center. This will provide both an exciting, innovative environment for company growth, as well as a magnet to attract new entrepreneurs and jobs to the area.
Noisette Row (row houses) will face a new constructed stream, consisting of a series of controlled segments designed to retain water and promote a lush Lowcountry habitat.
The Noisette Rose as shown in this Chapter illustrates a hypothetical example of a school building, which is enacting the principle of Schools as Centers of Community. Each radial line demonstrates the level of achievement in a particular goal.
The Master Plan is in the implementation phase. Various projects include redevelopment of old warehouses to mixed-use buildings. A new Naval Memorial is in the design phase.
Images show current design processes based on the master plan's principles. Riverfront Park is the first project to start construction.
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