International African American Museum gains final approval from the BAR

Construction could begin by year’s end

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The final design for the International African American Museum - MOODY NOLAN/PEI COBB FREED & PARTNERS
  • Moody Nolan/Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
  • The final design for the International African American Museum
After receiving final approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review, the International African American Museum is one step closer to becoming an actuality.

Few projects in recent memory have been met with such praise from board members as the International African American Museum. Planned for Gadsden’s Wharf, the site where 100,000 Africans where brought to America between 1783-1808 during the height of slave trade, the museum is estimated to cost around $75 million.

“We’ve got about $19-20 million left in private fundraising to actually complete this. Because we’re affiliated with the city, we’re required to have raised all the money before we can break ground,” says museum president and CEO Michael Moore. “We’re out, hat in hand, having lots of meetings, talking to folks and having them envision what we’re doing. Things are going pretty well.”

Last year, when Moore was named to head up fundraising efforts for the project, former Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said that the city and county had agreed to contribute $25 million to completing the museum, and the state had begun efforts to match that amount. According to Moore, those behind the project are hoping to break ground by the end of this year or early 2018, with a construction timeline of approximately two years.

Michael Moore is president and CEO of the International African-American Museum - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Michael Moore is president and CEO of the International African-American Museum
With the beginning of construction pending a final review of the project by city staff, plans for the museum include handmade brick, a palm grove, as well as a boardwalk entryway lined with polished granite walls. A water feature constructed underneath the museum’s main structure will slowly fill and drain throughout the day, revealing figures and designs carved into the base.

Board members lauded the museum’s design, but some warned that a few unresolved details related to the project could force the applicants to return to the BAR once more for approval. Currently, designers on the International African American Museum say they are speaking with local craftsmen and artisans to finalize portions of the museum, such as the large sweetgrass basket structures to be placed outside.

Prior to a unanimous vote to approve the project, Jay White echoed the sentiments of his fellow board members by saying that the board has done its job if they allow a project of this magnitude to get to this level and support those who have carried it along the way as the development moves forward.


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