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Charleston is the second largest city in South Carolina with an estimated 1998 population of 100,122. Between 1980 and 1990 Charleston grew 15 percent while the nation as a whole grew 9.8 percent. The City's growth is due to the annexed lands in West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island and the Cainhoy Peninsula.
As in other coastal cities, recreation in Charleston centers around water. Tennis and golf are popular, too and the mild climate makes them year-round sports. The City's numerous parks and scenic, tree-lined streets provide ample space and a beautiful backdrop for walking, jogging and cycling. The annual Cooper River Bridge Run, attracting over 25,000 participants, is one of the most popular roadraces in the Southeast.
The economy of the tri-county area has expanded steadily over the past few years. Manufacturing, the military, the State Ports Authority and tourism were the engines behind that expansion. The military alone employed 19 percent of the area's work force and pumped over $4 billion annually into the local economy. For this reason, there was concern in 1992 when the Navy announced it was shutting down its Charleston base and shipyard. Community leaders rallied together with a renewed effort to fill the void that would be left by the exiting Naval presence. By 1995 a record 1.2 billion dollars of capital investment in this area was figured to bring about 8,000 new jobs.
The medical industry accounts for approximately 16,000 jobs in the regional economy. The primary medical complex occupies an eight block area in downtown Charleston. The medical center includes The Medical University of South Carolina, which employs approximately 7,500 people and has a $1 billion annual impact on the regional economy. Roper Hospital employs approximately 2,170. A third hospital, Charleston County Memorial Hospital, is owned by Charleston County and operated by The Medical University of South Carolina. Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital and Veterans Administration Medical Center are also a part of the downtown medical complex.
A 1996 Gamble Givens & Moody business survey concluded that Charleston's economy is sound and growing. Economic boom is evident in the vast newly connected lands of Daniel Island and Cainhoy. The Charleston Regional Development Alliance is responsible for securing about 5,000 new positions, including the Nucor steel plant and high quality tabletop product manufacturer Mikasa for the Cainhoy area. Two other recent additions to Cainhoy are a new administrative facility for health insurance provider, Healthsource and the Cainhoy area's first school, Bishop England High School.
As the largest containerized cargo port on the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and the seventh largest nationwide, the port annually handles over 6.8 million tons of cargo and employs an estimated 17,000 people (directly and indirectly). Confidence in the port's expanding future is evident in BMW Corporation's recent decision to import and export around the world from these docks. The Port of Charleston promises to be a cornerstone of the area's future economic growth.
Completed in 2000, The South Carolina Aquarium, showcases exhibits of South Carolina's waterways from the mountains to the sea and includes thousands of animals and plants. Also completed in 2000, and located adjacent to the South Carolina Aquarium, is the new IMAX Theatre. The Ashley River Walkway - a combination bikeway and promenade - is in the planning stages and will wrap around the eastern side of the Peninsula. Ultimately, the Walkway would link the new City baseball stadium, just north of Brittlebank Park on the Ashley River, with the South Carolina Aquarium
A major catalyst in the City's revitalization was the completion of Charleston Place in 1986. This luxury hotel/retail complex draws a steady stream of customers to its shops as well as to neighboring stores and restaurants along King, Meeting and Market Streets. With the Hampton Inn redevelopment, the refurbishment of the stately Francis Marion Hotel and the conversion of the old Citadel into Embassy Suites, this area is experiencing a resounding boom. A well-appointed landmark, Marion Square Park is undergoing a redesign and will be entirely surrounded by development successes and two revered churches.
In 1991, Charleston opened the gates to its Visitor Reception and Transportation Center (VRTC) on Meeting Street. The VRTC represents a significant alliance of historic preservation and tourism management. It is housed in an 1856 railroad freight station. In the renovation of the structure, the City has salvaged the rustic feel of the old depot - original beams and pine floors still greet the Charleston visitor.
Several other developments enlivened the City and secured its position as a wonderful place to live. In 1990, the City completed the Waterfront Park - an eight-acre linear park and pier along the Charleston Harbor entry. The park masterfully combines spectacular fountains, spacious lawns, intimate garden "rooms", plenty of walking and jogging paths and a long wharf with picnic tables and wooden swings. Additional waters-edge projects afford greater public access to the water, including the Charleston Maritime Center, which will establish a permanent home for the shrimping industry and include a special events pier with public access to the water.
Another extraordinary economic opportunity avails itself as a nearby sixty - five acres, known as Union Pier, offers prime development sites for hotel, retail, office and residential, deep in the historic district. A full complement of boulevards, parks and vistas are planned to ensure an ambiance befitting the historic district.