North Charleston’s plan to create a new place for artists to live, work and teach moved ahead Thursday night when City Council agreed to spend $100,000 on studies and plans for the Garco mill building.
The roughly 120,000-square-foot vacant factory building, a two-story brick structure with large windows, is currently owned by The Beach Co., which has plans to develop hundreds of apartments and a large amount of retail space on the adjacent land.
The city has decided to spend money on engineering studies and conceptual design plans without first reaching an agreement to buy the building, but both sides say a sale will happen if the price can be agreed upon.
“We have a gentlemen’s agreement, but not a price,” said Councilman Bob King. “It’s a good project.”
The idea is to create loft apartments for artists, classroom space where they can offer classes, and a theater with between 200 and 300 seats. Retail space might also be included, to help pay expenses.
Mayor Keith Summey proposed the plan because some of the the city’s current cultural arts spaces, including the 986-seat Sterett Hall Auditorium, will be making way for a new rail yard on the former Navy base.
Summey said Thursday that the $100,000 for studies and plans “gives us the ability to look at the structure and see if it’s worth the city’s investment moving forward.”
The brick mill building is the last remaining structure from the former industrial site, still referred to by locals as Garco — General Asbestos & Rubber Co. — the company that operated there in the early 1900s and was one of North Charleston’s largest employers. The company changed names a number of times starting in 1924, and The Beach Co. bought the 23-acre property in 2003 at a bankruptcy auction.
In another development-related vote Thursday, City Council signed off on Summey’s decision to buy the Runaway Bay restaurant building on the former base at a foreclosure auction several weeks ago for $308,000. The vote allows the city to close on the purchase.
The building is one of the historic “Panama” houses where officers lived, and is adjacent to the city’s Riverfront Park. Summey has said the city may use the building for event rentals.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.