Thomas & Hutton Wins Engineering Excellence Award

Staff Report From Charleston CEO

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Thomas & Hutton (T&H) was presented an Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) South Carolina Chapter at its Awards Gala held in Columbia on Tuesday, February 4th. The awards competition recognizes engineering firms that demonstrate an exceptional degree of innovation, complexity, achievement, and value through their submitted projects. T&H’s project, “Connecting the Creek” took home the award in the “Small Projects” category. Connecting the Creek encompassed Phase 3 improvements to the popular Shem Creek area in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina and included the design and construction of an independent pedestrian bridge along Coleman Blvd. and the creation of a public park destination.

T&H has worked with the Town of Mount Pleasant (the Town) on the development of public access to Shem Creek since 2007. The commercial portion of the creek is lined with restaurants, shrimping facilities, and businesses that offer recreational water activities, such as boat, paddleboard, and kayak rentals and fishing charters. As the Town has experienced a surge of growth in the past 10 years, the popular Shem Creek area has also seen increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

In 2016, T&H began working with the Town to develop the concept for “Connecting the Creek” which primarily included the construction of a pedestrian bridge to provide safe access from one side of the creek to the other, independent from the Coleman Blvd. vehicular bridge. Shem Creek is a recreational water body that is part of the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Federal Navigation Channel. The bridge crosses a Critical Area from a state regulatory standpoint, falls under the Corps and United States Coast Guards’ jurisdiction as a bridge crossing a navigation channel, and is located fully within the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s right-of-way. The permitting process required a substantial amount of coordination between T&H, the Town, and various agencies to allow existing businesses and traffic to continue as usual. Other design challenges included difficult geotechnical conditions and installation of piles adjacent to historic properties.

In addition to the bridge, the project included the development of a public park space along the water on the west side of the creek. Affectionately entitled the pocket park, the new public park is located in a narrow slip of land between restaurants. Prior to the transformation that occurred with Phase 3, the pocket park was a neglected parcel of land that had become a pedestrian side access to one of the restaurants. T&H drastically transformed this parcel into a quaint, ADA accessible park area, complete with planters, benches, elevated deck, landscaping, bricked accessway, bike racks, and rocking chairs.

The construction of Phase 3 was completed in September of 2019 and has been a huge success, providing enhanced connectivity and accessibility for the Mount Pleasant community and its visitors, as well as a dedicated water space for public recreation and enjoyment. The design features of the pedestrian bridge and pocket park identify with the area’s coastal heritage while providing public water access and prioritizing the pedestrian experience.