A deal to redevelop the former Naval Hospital and the Shipwatch Square shopping center, and a settlement of a hard-fought dispute over rail access to a new port terminal, were among the highlights of a State of the City address from North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey tonight.
In a 29-minute videotaped address, produced earlier this week, Summey laid out few initiatives for the year ahead but delivered a best-of highlights reel for the year behind.
In one of the few understatements in the address, Summey said that North Charleston was blessed in 2012 with an economy that was “not as dreadful” as in other places.
In fact, as Summey also noted, most measures of the economy perked up smartly during the past year in North Charleston, with $106 million in new commercial construction, a 13 percent increase in residential building permits, rising employment, growing city revenues (with no tax increase), and even people playing more golf at the city-owned course.
North Charleston has led South Carolina in retail sales for 20 years, so broad increases in consumer spending tend to ripple through the city.
The past year also saw North Charleston resolve a long and expensive fight with the state government over the routes freight trains would use to access a new port terminal planned on the former Navy Base. In a deal that Summey said was the best the city could get, North Charleston will get cash and debt repayments worth $14.5 million plus land to develop on the base and the promise of a transportation study that will examine rail and truck traffic.
In the settlement the state will get the dual rail access to the port, from the north and south ends of the base, that it insisted upon all along.
The city's other big base-related deal came after Summey decided North Charleston should buy the former Naval Hospital, a vacant 10-story building, for $2 million. The hospital property is across the street from the former Shipwatch Square shopping center, previously known as Pinehaven, which the city spend $4.2 million acquiring and clearing for redevelopment.
Just two months later, a deal was announced to sell the two properties to a developer who plans a grocery story, health clinic, housing and other uses for the combined 40 acres. The city would recoup its investment and realize the goal of getting a major grocery store in a part of the city that has none.
“Our ultimate goal was always to get a grocery store for this part of the city,” Summey said. “Anything beyond that will be a win-win.”
That real estate development deal is still in the “due diligence” period, essentially awaiting final approval from the buyer.
For the coming year, the city plans to finish enclosing the Danny Jones Pool, continue the expansion of the Coliseum, start construction of a new public works complex, and complete work on several recreation and senior center projects.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.
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