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New medical district means more green space, walking areas
Staff Report | MUSC News Center | December 17, 2015

Images provided by medical district design team

This illustration of the proposed medical district shows Doughty Street looking toward the Colbert Library (white building) from Ashley River Tower.  

Important changes are in the works in downtown Charleston, where city leaders have given the go-ahead for a new medical district. It will mean more green space, walking areas, parking, signs and easier access to the Medical University of South Carolina, Roper Hospital and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

MUSC President David Cole, M.D., said the medical district will create many more opportunities for people to gather and connect. “Patients and family members so often say ‘thank you’ for not only the care provided but also the opportunity to walk into a garden or to have a place outside to rest. We are a place of health, healing and education.” 

MUSC Office of Health Promotion Director Susan Johnson, Ph.D., said the medical district embodies what she and other campus leaders have been working on for years. “It really embraces this idea of the built environment and green spaces and what that means in terms of people’s behavior and also just their overall health and well-being. We’ve always felt at MUSC that when people are here on our campus, everything they experience needs to be positive for their health and well-being. That helps them heal, whether they’re a patient or a family member.”

A view of Courtenay Drive looking east toward the water in the new medical district 

Momentum for creating the medical district started in January when Cole called Roper St. Francis President and Chief Executive Officer David Dunlap, and the two met to discuss a proposed parking garage for Roper St. Francis employees. The result was an agreement that allowed Roper Hospital to continue leasing parking spaces in MUSC garages while both hospitals collaborated with the City of Charleston on creating a medical district that everyone could enjoy.

Dunlap said the pedestrian mall will give employees, patients and visitors a great way to walk across the hospital campuses and enjoy the beauty of the area. “We expect this medical district to become another iconic Charleston landmark and an incredible addition to the many reasons why Charleston is a world-class city.”

Initial plans for the medical district include:

Developing a pedestrian-oriented greenway that links the eastern and western parts of the peninsula

Better managing Courtenay Drive traffic to improve conditions for pedestrians

Building a garage at Courtenay Drive and Bee Street for parking

Connecting WestEdge, a planned mixed-use research community, to Colonial Lake, to link the upper west side of the peninsula with the lower part

Turning part of Doughty Street into a pedestrian area with trees, grass and outdoor seating

A view of Courtenay Drive from Calhoun Street, with the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital on the corner 

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center joined MUSC and Roper Hospital in supporting the medical district with a goal of improving pedestrian traffic. VA Medical Center Director Scott Isaacks said the hospitals are next-door neighbors that work hand in hand. “We have a significant number of medical staff who hold appointments at the VA, MUSC and Roper, and walk between our facilities multiple times every day. We also have veterans who go to MUSC and Roper for certain appointments, so it is natural that our VA would be interested in improving the environment in this area.”

Last month, MUSC, Roper Hospital and the VA submitted a memorandum of understanding to Charleston, asking city officials to endorse the project. The memorandum set up the initial framework for future development. 

City Council voted to support the proposed medical district memorandum on Tuesday during Joe Riley’s final public meeting as mayor. Riley called the proposed changes “unprecedented” and “thrilling.” 



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