The latest changes to Charleston's Concord Park redevelopment plan would put the Humanities Foundation in charge of developing the site's affordable housing, in the form of an apartment building for senior citizens with modest incomes.
The redevelopment plan for the site of Ansonborough Homes, a public housing complex near what is now the South Carolina Aquarium, always has called for some amount of affordable housing, in addition to offices, residences and hotel.
However, the plan has changed several times, from the originally agreed-upon condo and apartment units for anyone who met income limits, to what could now be a standalone building of affordable age-restricted apartments for seniors.
The change, which Charleston City Council will consider this evening, would allow the East West Cumberland Park Associates to sell part of the property it agreed to purchase from the city to the nonprofit Humanities Foundation. The nonprofit group would then seek federal tax credits and other government subsidies in order to develop the apartments, as it has successfully done elsewhere in the city.
"I think the strategy still meets the intent of what the city initially proposed," said Geona Shaw Johnson, Charleston's housing director.
East West originally agreed to buy roughly 3.5 acres -- the north and south ends of the 10-acre property -- from the city for $16 million. The remaining land in the middle would be the city's new Concord Park, a park roughly the size of Marion Square.
Ansonborough Homes, the 162 low-income homes that once occupied the land, was demolished in 1992 because of pollution discovered in the soil and flooding. Because of flood requirements, anything built on the site must be elevated.
The East West redevelopment plan was delayed several times, and City Council agreed at the end of 2009 to let the company sell part of the northern end of the site to a third party, to develop an office building. The city received $3 million toward the land purchase price as a result.
In the Humanities Foundation deal, East West would sell about a quarter of the 1.6-acre southern end of the development site. East West has agreed to pay the city $6 million for the entire parcel, and the agreement does not specify what Humanities Foundation would pay for a portion of that land.
"We are negotiating still with East West," Humanities Foundation Executive Director Tracy Doran said Friday.
She said the nonprofit's plan to build apartments for people age 55 and older depends upon winning federal tax-credit financing from the state's housing agency.
"We think this project would compete very well, but it (winning the funding) is competitive," she said. "We think it's a great site for senior housing. It's close to services downtown."
Councilman Robert Mitchell represents the area, and said the proposal sounds beneficial for the community.
"There's always a need for that housing because of the way the economy is," he said. "The Humanities Foundation can usually get financing for that sort of thing, and they do a good job."
The nonprofit recently celebrated the opening of Seven Farms Village Apartments, an affordable senior citizens community on Daniel Island.
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