Charleston officials will break ground this fall on new low-income housing for senior citizens by building in the same waterfront area where Hurricane Hugo ravaged dozens of public housing units in 1989.
A five-story, 55-unit apartment building will go up in the southwest corner of Gadsdenboro Park (formerly Concord), not far from the S.C. Aquarium and in the vicinity of the former Ansonborough Homes public housing.
Rents for each one-bedroom apartment is projected to run in the area of $800 per month for seniors 65 and over who have annual incomes between $28,000 and $31,000.
In a ceremony Tuesday, Mayor Joe Riley formally transferred ownership of the site to the Charleston Housing Authority.
The land has a long history in the public realm, starting out as public housing in the early to mid part of the last century.
During Hugo, the 162-unit site was severely hit by storm and flood waters. A later analysis showed that the grounds around the area were contaminated by an old coal gasification plant, and the homes were demolished in 1992.
Following a federally supervised environmental cleanup that coincided with development of the aquarium, Charleston sought to develop the 10-acre site.
The result was a plan where developers paid the city $16 million for 3.5 acres at the north and south ends of the property, where offices have been built and homes and a luxury hotel are planned.
The city will retain most of the land for use as a park, roughly the size of Marion Square.
City officials said they always planned to have a public housing element return in some fashion. A recent unsuccessful effort was by the nonprofit Humanities Foundation, which could not secure tax-credit financing.
The biggest plus to the project now going to the housing authority is that the apartment will be “owned by the public forever,” Riley said. It ensures “affordable housing will continue to be a part of the fabric of the community,” he added. As envisioned, the new building will be handicapped-accessible, and each unit will be equipped with a range, refrigerator, dishwasher and two rocking chairs. The building, to be called Williams Terrace, is being named for Henry Williams, who is approaching his 25th year of service with the Housing Authority Board.
This is also the first housing the authority has built specifically for seniors, since much of its holdings is done by rehabilitating older buildings. The agency also has done workforce-aimed housing, including on Daniel Island. The Housing Authority will break ground in October and is scheduled to open the units just before Christmas 2014.
The construction budget is about $7.7 million, said authority Executive Director Don Cameron.
David Slade contributed to this report.