East Side residents look at redevelopment plan
East Side residents looked over an initial plan for redeveloping 12 acres around The Post and Courier’s downtown building, and several wondered how it could benefit those living nearby.
Tim Keane, director of Charleston’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, detailed what is allowed under current zoning and said the project would be phased in over 10 to 15 years.
The redevelopment area — one of Charleston’s largest — covers most of three city blocks between Meeting, Columbus, St. Philip and Line streets. It’s owned by Evening Post Publishing Co., parent company of this newspaper and other media properties.
The early schematic plan calls for up to 2 million square feet of residential, retail and offices, but Keane said, “As far as what the uses would be, it’s hard to say exactly. It’s a lot of land. It would probably be most everything. There could be some other uses we don’t know about yet.”
Keane said Wednesday’s meeting, which drew about 30 East Side residents, would be the first of many and was designed to give residents a chance to say what they would like to see built there.
Some mentioned they would like to see stops for express buses to the airport and the Amtrak station, as well as a big-box retailer, such as Walmart. Another voiced concern that nearby flooding be addressed.
East Side resident Joseph Watson said he was concerned to read about the redevelopment in the newspaper before hearing about it in person, adding, “The first thing is to work with the community, bring something to us.”
Ron Owens, vice president of finance with Evening Post Publishing, vowed to communicate with the community throughout the process.
Owens said the company ultimately will partner with developers, but it first wanted to come up with a master plan that would lay the groundwork for how the project fits into the community.
Unlike feedback at an earlier public meeting, most East Side residents seemed less concerned about the project’s design, public spaces or density than what sort of opportunity it would present to those who have lived nearby for years. “How do you keep the community as a wholesome community as you grow at the same time?” Watson asked.
Others picked up on that theme, asking if the work would provide job opportunities for neighborhood youths.
Resident Anthony Gadsden said other projects and programs had raised the community’s hopes along those lines but had not panned out.
Art Maybank, another resident, agreed and referred to redevelopment plans for the Cigar Factory and other buildings going up nearby on Meeting Street. “It’s getting a little scary to walk down Meeting,” he said. “It’s like you’re in a town that’s not yours anymore. We’re not asking for a piece of the pie, just a crumb.”
The first piece of the redevelopment is expected to unfold at the northwest corner of Meeting and Columbus, a site used most recently to store trucks and construction materials.
Owens said the company might have a development partner for that area within a few months. The next phase is expected to involve property south of Line Street between King and St. Philip. The later phases would involve the newspaper’s offices, printing press and King Street parking area.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.