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Reimagining Gadsdenboro Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Landscape Architecture/Lead Consultant--ColeJenest & Stone
Playground Design--ColeJenest & Stone and Landscape Structures
Play Structures--Custom Design Studio of Miracle Recreation Co./
Churchich Recreation and Design

The new five-acre Gadsdenboro Park in Charleston, South Carolina celebrated its grand opening in May of 2015. The park features two custom playground structures by Miracle Design Studio. The playground design was by ColeJenest & Stone (landscape architects/civil engineers) and Landscape Structures. The park also includes soccer fields ('Celebration' Bermuda Cynodon dactylon); concrete and brick paths; garden areas; pergolas with bench seating; bench swings; public restrooms with a green roof; a bocce ball court and game tables.

Gadsdenboro Park in Charleston, S.C., has not always been the beautiful destination that it is today. This 5-acre park, formerly known as Concord Park, resides at the center of a 10-acre parcel that is bordered by Calhoun, Concord, Laurens and Washington streets. Gadsdenboro Park is positioned in the center of a vibrant tourist area, sitting in close proximity to many of Charleston's attractions, including the new site of the International African American Museum and the South Carolina Aquarium. The park is also directly across from the Charleston Maritime Center. It was this proximity to the ocean, the Maritime Center as well as Charleston's history and its reliance on the rivers that inspired the nautical theme for the new playgrounds at Gadsdenboro Park. The site at Gadsdenboro Park had long sat vacant before the city devised the plan to develop the location into the bustling and picturesque park that visitors enjoy today. The land has a long history in the public realm. It began as a public housing site in the 1940s, known as the Ansonborough Homes complex. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc on the site. It was later discovered the grounds were contaminated by an old coal gasification plant, which led to the demolition of the homes in 1992. Although the contamination was cleaned up, the land remained a starkly vacant location for over a decade.


The larger ship, with its taller slides and more challenging components, is designed as a sea going boat to entertain the 5-12 age group. The elevated multilevel wheelhouse contains a moveable steering wheel, lookouts (Kids' Perches with Delight-O-Scope telescopes), seating, two thrilling slides options for quick exits and age appropriate climbers. Life preserver panels break up the repetitiveness of the vertical steel tubing. Beneath the bow's decking is a play space enclosed by a red prow with portholes and vents. A concrete path with granite edging encircles the soccer fields to give visitors easy access to the park amenities.The new trees here are 'Catawba' crape myrtles. The historic style luminaires are atop 12' poles and illuminated with 60-watt LEDs. There are also ground-mounted 'Scarab' accent lights for the landscaping.

In addition to the new park, plans are being developed for mixed-use development on the parcel. The five-story Williams Terrace Senior Housing Building just opened in June 2015.

The $5.7 million park project is a destination for all to enjoy. Wrapped in trees, the park also includes soccer fields in the center; paved walking paths; game tables; adult swings; a bocce court; a custom fountain art feature; and public restrooms, in addition to the two custom playgrounds for different age groups.


The dimensions and height of the striking red and black custom designed tugboat is meant for ages 2-5. The tugboat features a multilevel bow containing portholes and vents for increased visibility, and crawl-through access below deck. The wheelhouse offers large windows; a moveable ship's wheel resides in front of the tall smokestack. From the stern, kids can speed down the Groove 2 slides and race their boats on the play panel at ground level. Custom panels, entry barriers on both levels and life preservers help break the visual pattern of the tug's vertical lines. A Fun Fone (yellow hanging cone) let's kids call to shore.

Designing the Playgrounds
When the idea for the two playgrounds at Gadsdenboro Park began the landscape architects for the project, ColeJenest & Stone, sought to tie in the proximity of the water and the surrounding site through nautical themed playgrounds. The plan included a playground designed for ages 2-5, and a separate playground designed for ages 5-12.

ColeJenest & Stone worked with the Custom Design Studio at Miracle Recreation Company to design two separate custom playgrounds for the park that tied into the nautical theme. This began with preliminary meetings to determine a design concept for the playgrounds. Once a direction was settled upon, the architect and the Miracle Custom Design Studio met face-to-face to continue developing the project and define the final designs for both playgrounds. To finish off, material and color selections were made to ensure the vision and expectations were ultimately met.


The bow (front of the boat to you landlubbers) of the larger boat is open at the center and accessed via a bridge. From the ground the 4' deck level is reached by regular steps, a pole ladder and a "chain" rope ladder. The decking is perforated steel for greater visibility. Perforated steel painted blue provides a safety barrier for the front. A canopy of over 100 trees envelop the park. The new trees here are 'Catawba' crape myrtles. The shrubbery (right) is compact holly. The playground benches are from J&M Foundry; the wrought iron fencing is from Ole Charleston Forge of Charleston.

The toddler playground features a tugboat play structure and a surfacing octopus structure to spark the imaginations of children. The tugboat features a multilevel custom bow containing portholes and vents for increased visibility, and crawl through access below its deck. A custom wheelhouse with large windows and a moveable ship's wheel resides in front of the towering smokestack, while a custom boat race panel sits at ground level. Custom barriers were added on both levels to break the repetitiveness of vertical steel tubing. Age appropriate climbers and slides are part of the structure along with a Fun Fone from the smokestack to call out to the shore. A custom octopus can be seen peeking out of the surface to inspire additional creative play for the younger children.


The commissioned stainless steel art sculpture for the fountain is 'Ascension' by Douwe Blumberg. The sculptor, a horse trainer for 18 years before turning to sculpture in 2000, is known for statues of Special Forces soldiers on horseback.

The innovative larger ship structure is designed to entertain older children seeking an oceanic adventure. Features include a custom bow with upper and lower access with portholes, vents and perforated steel on the upper level for visibility, and central access from rope and chain climbs to the 4' level. The multilevel wheelhouse contains a moveable steering wheel, seating, a tube slide that wraps inside the structure, and lookouts to peer down below. Life preserver panels are visible throughout and custom barriers are again included to break the repetitiveness of vertical steel tubing. Age appropriate climbers, slides, and play features fill the structure along with Kids' Perches with Delight-O-Scope telescopes to the back of the bow and slightly above for added play.


The two tugboat slides deposit kids into proximity of the outstretched tentacles of a large octopus.

Bringing it All Together
Planning, designing, developing and constructing the entire park project required approximately 16 months. Construction began in January of 2014 and the grand opening was celebrated on May 16, 2015. Every detail was carefully planned and considered, from the special surfacing with a below-surface drainage system on the athletic fields to promote quick drying after heavy rains, to the more than 100 trees planted around the park. A commissioned art sculpture featuring oversized stainless steel birds above the water of a large water fountain is just one example of the many beautifully crafted elements that make this park special. That's because, according to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, "One of the most important things that a city does, and can do, is build a park, because parks are forever. Parks are for the citizens," Riley added. "A building, maybe at some point in time, will be redeveloped or it might be changed. But if you build a park, it's a public space forever."


Project Team
Landscape Architecture/Civil Engineering:
ColeJenest & Stone
ADC Engineering
AOS Specialty Contracting
Charleston City Council
Charleston Department of Parks
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley
Churchich Recreation and Design
Collins Engineers, Inc.
Douwe Blumberg
DWG, Inc.
Georgia Fountain, Inc.
Hilbish McGee Lighting Design
Irrigation Innovations, LLC
Landscape Structures
LS3P Associates, LTD
PlayPower/Miracle Recreation's Custom Design Studio
Projects for Public Spaces
Zeager Bros. Inc.: Engineered Wood Fiber

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