A recycling operation could be built on a swath of the Charleston Neck Area once envisioned as part of a waterside oasis of residential and commercial space.

At a glance

Developers are seeking state and local approvals to clean up and sell nearly 24 acres in Ashley River Center, potentially for a recycling operation.

North Charleston City Council is scheduled to address a rezoning request on Sept. 12

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is accepting public comments on the proposed Voluntary Clean Up Contract until Sept. 10.

ARC Developer I, LLC, part of Atlanta-based developer Branch Properties, LLC, is seeking approval to clean up and redevelop a 23.8-acre piece of land on Baker Hospital Boulevard in the Ashley River Center. Expectations are that it could be home to a new recycling plant, according to an application recently submitted to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The Ashley River Center property sits atop arsenic- and lead-contaminated soil from a former phosphate mining and chemical plant site previously owned by ExxonMobil Corp.

The recycling center plan, which was a surprise to some North Charleston community leaders, also comes as Charleston County is looking for land to replace its current facility that is too small.

The Ashley River Center redevelopment is a partnership between Branch Properties, MeadWestvaco Corp. and Atlanta-based Pope & Land Enterprises Inc.

The group, operating as Ashley River Investors LLC, has also applied to change zoning in the part of Ashley River Center from general business to heavy industrial use.

On Wednesday, the partnership released a written statement saying there remains no final intent for the property.

“While we have not identified a user, we felt that heavy industrial zoning was the appropriate zoning for that portion of the property, due to its proximity to I-26 and other adjacent heavy industrial uses,” according to the statement.

Ashley River Center property owner Cherokee Investment Partners, a North Carolina private equity firm, was not available for comment.

The redevelopment project would mean further eroding of the highly ballyhooed plans unveiled years ago to transform the 57-acre Ashley River Center into offices, hotels, residences, retail space and recreational areas.

The plan also involved demolishing the former Baker Hospital building.

The old hospital building was home to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce until 2010. Demolition was completed and environmental cleanup was under way in 2011.

News of the potential recycling center came as a surprise to some North Charleston community leaders, who say waste management remains a sensitive topic for some of the city's southern neighborhoods.

A short distance away was a trash-burning incinerator off Spruill Avenue, which became the center of a bitter debate between neighborhood residents and public officials.

The plant closed years ago, but its memories remain, said Rahim Karriem, president of the Union Heights Community Council.

About a year ago, neighborhood residents opposed a plan to place a recycling plant at the former incinerator site, Karriem said.

“I think after having that type of facility in our backyards, we just didn't want the that there,” he said. “The stigma of a facility like that in our community was just something that did not sit well with the community.”

Michael Brown, the city councilman representing some communities near the proposed recycling center, did not respond to numerous phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Ryan Johnson, spokesman for North Charleston, said council will take up the rezoning request at the Sept. 12 meeting. He added that staff and the Planning Commission are recommending the rezoning be approved.

ARC Developer is seeking a voluntary cleanup contract with DHEC, allowing the company to develop the property as a brownsfield site. Like much of the land along the Ashley River in the Neck Area, the site was polluted with the products of phosphate fertilizer production, wood-treatment mills and other heavy industry.

The recycling plan also comes at Charleston County continues its search for a new recycling plant. Officials have said Charleston County's Romney Street recycling center is reaching capacity due in-part to the “All-In-One” recycling program, which allows residents to mix all their recyclables in one large bin instead of separating them.

On Tuesday, Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said county staffers now are looking carefully at three or four sites for the new recycling center, and the Ashley River site is one of them. He would not say which other sites were being considered, he said, because contracts are involved.

Staffers will select a site and make a recommendation to County Council at its Aug. 22 meeting, Pryor said.

He also said that the county once had considered the CARTA site on Montague Avenue, but that now is off the table.

Diane Knich contributed to this report. Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.