Jim Newsome, standing on the Charleston docks near an empty 106,000-square foot warehouse that will be renovated as the new terminal, also announced that a design team for the project has been selected.
The authority board awarded a $2.4 million design contract to the Colorado-based firm CH2M Hill. The company will work with a team of local companies in designing the new terminal, located up the waterfront from the city's existing terminal.
Newsome said the company has wide experience in marine renovations and creating cruise terminals.
The cruise industry is growing in Charleston, with an estimated 90 ships expected to call this year. CarnivalCruise Lines' 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy in Charleston became the first liner to be permanently based in the city. Newsome said work on the new terminal should begin later this year and the facility should be open to passengers in the third quarter of 2012.
He said the authority originally considered renovating its existing terminal, an aging cinderblock structure built four decades ago. But after months of discussions with the community, the authority decided it would be better to move the terminal to a 25-acre site up the Cooper River. Once completed, the authority will turn its attention to redeveloping 35 acres of nearby waterfront for other purposes, reknitting it with the city and removing warehouses and fences that cordon off the area.
Newsome said the authority will build a terminal "that fits into the very unique and important context of this city." He said it will meet security requirements, provide a better experience for travelers and eliminate the traffic congestion that now accompanies liners docking in Charleston.
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. promised "a great terminal - a world class one."
Some Charleston residents have expressed concern the cruise industry may be growing too big for the city that already attracts 4 million visitors a year
But Riley said the one-berth terminal is the right scale. About two ships will call each week, and a total of 200,000 cruise passengers will pass through the city each year.
The terminal project is expected to mean $43 million for the local economy.