Medal of Honor Museum scraps design, will start over with Mount Pleasant input this time

May 21, 2018

The Post and Courier, Dave Munday, 5/21/2018

The National Medal of Honor Museum planners have set aside their controversial star-shaped design and will get input from the community before starting on a new one.

“We should not have put forth a design on public land without public input,” Joe Daniels, CEO of the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, said last week. “A partnership with the town is a core requirement.”

The museum will be built near the aircraft carrier Yorktown on land owned by the Patriots Point Development Authority, a state agency, for a lease of $1 a year.

Several meetings will be held in June and July to get input on a new design. A date has not been set yet for the first meeting.

It’s good news to Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston of Mount Pleasant, a Medal of Honor recipient who quit the board last year over disagreements over its direction. He’s a member of the Congressional Honor Society, which holds the rights to the medals, which are currently displayed aboard the Yorktown.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Livingston said of the new plan. “That should have been done initially, in my opinion. I think Joe is right on the right track. I think the community wants a museum, and I hope he can deliver it.”

Daniels, who led the fund drive for the 9/11 memorial in New York City, took over leadership of the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation in April. He was called in after the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission overwhelmingly rejected the proposed design because of its height and proximity to the water.

After the Planning Commission meeting, Board Chairman Bill Phillips said they would build the museum in another city if the town didn’t like it. Daniels quickly backed off that claim, saying he wanted to work out a compromise.

“I do feel like we’re turning around the spirit of the project,” Daniels said.

Town Council’s Planning Committee met April 2 and declined to take any action on the application for 60 days until Daniels had a chance to meet with staff, council members and residents.

Mayor Will Haynie and Planning Committee Chairman Joe Bustos both praised the new direction Monday.

“This is definitely a good step, and we are thrilled about the new approach by the museum foundation,” Haynie said. “The town wholeheartedly supports the completion of the museum, and our citizens will now have welcomed input into a design that both honors the recipients and the ordinances of our town.”

Bustos said he expects an update from Daniels at the next planning committee meeting, which he expects sometime the first week of June.

“We are pleased that the Medal of Honor Museum wants to include the town in its planning process,” Bustos said. “Everyone wants the museum but felt our process was important. I look forward to working with Joe Daniels.”

Daniels said he didn’t hear anybody who really liked the concept by internationally known architect Moshe Safdie of New York. The design was unveiled in April 2015 with no formal input from the town or residents. Safdie remains on contract for the new design, but this time after hearing what the community has to say.

Daniels said the new design will be significantly less than the 125 feet of the former design, but he remains hopeful that residents and town leaders will allow more than 80 feet, which is the limit the Planning Commission said it would consider. The site near the Ravenel Bridge is zoned for 50 feet, but the town has allowed a nearby project up to 80 feet.

“It’s a beautiful setting for something iconic,” Daniels said.

The foundation spent about $3.5 million on the current design but that also includes engineering and site work, including plans to move a section of Patriots Point Boulevard for access, and that work remains valid.

“It’s not a complete do over,” Daniels said.

The foundation has about $19 million in the bank to keep the project going until fundraising ramps up again. That includes $5 million from the state.

Meanwhile, Daniels has hired a chief of staff and a fundraiser to help push the project forward.

Alex Rhue, chief of staff, worked with Daniels in New York on the 9/11 memorial and plans to move to Mount Pleasant with her husband in the near future.

Monica Notzon, who will spearhead fundraising, was a GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C., and moved to Charleston a few years ago.

Article also featured on The Washington Post.

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