North Charleston’s $2 million building comes with chapel, autopsy room
After touring the vacant, 380,000-square-foot hospital that the city is buying for $2 million, several North Charleston officials said the building has great possibilities, but they didn’t appreciate just how big it is.
The 10-story former Charleston Naval Hospital building at Rivers and McMillan avenues is the tallest building in North Charleston, and it sits on 24 acres with a 900-car parking lot.
Its location, across from the city-owned vacant Shipwatch Square shopping center site, makes it part of a larger city vision for revitalizing the South End area.
“It’s strategically important,” said City Councilman Ron Brinson. “Being up on that roof, you can tell how it fits in. The Navy yard is right there, and Shipwatch Square is across the street.”
The 175-bed hospital opened in 1973 to support the Charleston Naval Base and Shipyard, and employed more than 1,200 health care workers before the base was closed. The city decided to buy the building after the federal government put it up for auction this fall.
Council members and Mayor Keith Summey toured the site Thursday morning, and most came away pleased.
At first glance the interior of the enormous, vacant and dimly-lit hospital seems like the perfect setting for a horror movie — there’s even a stained autopsy table in the basement.
While some areas of the building are in disrepair, most former patient and staff rooms appear to be in good condition.
“The purchase price is worth every penny,” said Councilman Todd Olds.
Many of the rooms are simple, carpeted rooms with windows, suitable for office work. The building also has an institutional kitchen, largely stripped of appliances, a chapel, a small theater, and a morgue.
What’s a city to do with a used autopsy table, anyway?
That’s a question that will wait for another day. The city hasn’t closed on the deal yet, but expects to in about two weeks.
Councilman Sam Hart said perhaps the building could serves as offices for nonprofit and for-profit companies. Councilman Bobby Jameson said it could potentially be housing or offices. Others suggested a college could make use of it.
The city has no specific plan for the property, but wanted control over what happens there. Summey said he doesn’t want to see the building torn down, and wants redevelopment efforts to focus on what will put people in the building, to help stimulate the local economy.
“Whoever develops this, and the property across the street, this is central to starting to heal the South End,” Summey said. “We thought the purchase price was a steal.”