A vast post-industrial wasteland to some and a fascinating outdoor museum to others, the Charleston Navy Yard is in the baby steps of rehabilitation from one of the Cold War era’s major military centers to the largest single urban redevelopment project in the United States.
The Navy’s gone now, forced off the site during a phase of base realignment in the mid-1990s. But a 340-acre section, the Navy Yard at Noisette (1360 Truxtun Ave., 843/302-2100, www.navyyardsc.com , daily 24 hours), now hosts an intriguing mix of homes, green design firms, nonprofits, and commercial maritime companies that was named America’s sixth-greenest neighborhood by Natural Home magazine in 2008. It’s even played host to some scenes of the Lifetime TV series Army Wives.
Enter on Spruill Avenue and you’ll find yourself on wide streets lined with huge, boarded-up warehouse facilities, old machine shops, and dormant power stations. A notable project is the restoration of 10 Storehouse Row (2120 Noisette Blvd., 843/302-2100, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.), which now hosts the American College of Building Arts, design firms, galleries, and a small café. Nearby, Clemson University will soon be administering one of the world’s largest wind turbine research facilities.
At the north end lies the new Riverfront Park (843/745-1087, daily dawn–dusk) in the old Chicora Gardens military residential area. There’s a nifty little fishing pier on the Cooper River, an excellent naval-themed band shell, and many sleekly designed, modernist sculptures paying tribute to the sailors and ships that made history here.
From Charleston  you get to the Navy Yard by taking I-26 north to exit 216-B (you can reach the I-26 junction by just going north on Meeting Street). After exiting take a left onto Spruill Avenue and a right onto McMillan, which takes you straight in.