South Carolina State University is set to move forward with a new community center on Charleston's east side, the first new building to locate near where the old Cooper River bridges once touched down.

The state's Budget and Control Board this month gave the school a green light to hire an architect to design the new building, said Delbert Foster, the university official who works with federal programs.

The center will cost between $2 and $3 million, all from federal funds for community outreach activities, Foster said.

Construction likely won't begin until December 2015, he said, but the center will take only six to eight months to build once shovels hit the dirt, he said.

The center, on the southwest corner of America and Lee streets, will offer GED classes, health information, nutrition education and other services the community needs, Foster said.

The city of Charleston will donate the land for the new building, said Tim Keane, the city's director of planning, preservation and sustainability. City Council already has approved the land transfer.

It's the only building currently in the works for the open area off upper Meeting Street, near the Cooper River Court public housing project. Strong rains flood the area streets, and the water can remain for days.

The city once had an ambitious plan to bring the area to life, but those plans fell apart in the economic downturn.

Keane said the city hopes development will being on other nearby blocks in 2014.

He envisions an area comprising apartments and single-family homes. He thinks most of the units will be lower-cost, and some moderately priced. There also could be some commercial and office space near Meeting Street.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.