Despite a struggling national economy, the past year saw a good deal of growth in North Charleston, which should continue in 2013, Mayor Keith Summey said in his State of the City address Thursday night.
Commercial and residential development rebounded in 2012 to what Summey described as a “fast and furious” pace, with $106 million in new commercial construction, and a 13 percent increase in residential building permits, representing about $40 million in residential construction.
Unemployment fell in the city and across the county, city revenues grew (with no tax increase), and signs of a recovering economy could even be seen at the city's golf course, where there was a 10 percent increase in rounds played last year.
In one of the few understatements in his address, Summey said North Charleston was blessed in 2012 with an economy that “has not been as dreadful” as in other places.
Several highlights of the past year, which could bear fruit well beyond 2013, were a deal to redevelop the former Naval Hospital and a former shopping center, and the settlement of a dispute over port rail access.
The shopping center and hospital properties were purchased by the city and are now under contract to be sold to a developer, in a $9.2 million deal meant to bring a grocery store to the southern part of the city.
The arrangement announced in December followed Summey's decision that North Charleston should buy the former Naval Hospital, a vacant 10-story building, for $2 million in October. The hospital property is across the street from the former Shipwatch Square shopping center, previously known as Pinehaven, which the city spent $4.2 million acquiring and clearing for redevelopment.
Just two months later, the deal was announced to sell the two properties, covering a combined 40 acres at Rivers and McMillan avenues.
“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 deal is still in the “due diligence” period, essentially awaiting final approval from the buyer. Summey said the plan could spur broad redevelopment of the area.
In his 29-minute address, Summey laid out few initiatives for the year ahead, but delivered best-of highlights from 2012.
For example, North Charleston resolved a long, costly fight with the state over routes freight trains will use to access a port terminal planned on the former Navy base.
In a deal Summey said neither side was “overly happy about,” the city will get cash and debt repayments worth $14.5 million, plus land and the promise of a transportation study to examine rail and truck traffic.
In the settlement, the state will get the dual-rail access to the port, from the north and south, that it insisted upon all along.
Summey said a master plan will be developed in 2013 for the roughly 100 acres on the former base that the city owns, about half of which is slated for residential development.
Also in the coming year, the city plans to finish enclosing the Danny Jones Pool, continue the expansion of the North Charleston 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.