The Charleston Jewish Community Center, the self-described "heart of the community" located in West Ashley since 1956, is going up for sale.
There are no near-term plans to close the JCC, but the 54,000-square-foot building will be half-empty by the end of next year when Addlestone Hebrew Academy relocates from the JCC to a new building next door, so the JCC board decided to put the building and 16-acre property on the market.
Board Vice President Ross Appel said the JCC wants to determine the best way to serve the needs of the community, which could range from offering programs at existing Jewish institutions to building a smaller facility elsewhere. No decisions along those lines have been made, he said.
"The JCC was really created at a time when Jews couldn't join country clubs, and all these places where people can go and work out did not exist," said Appel.
The question now, he said, is whether the best use of resources that include charitable donations is "a tennis court in West Ashley, or a program somewhere else that could draw people from all over."
The JCC is open to all people and offers cultural programs, a popular summer camp, fitness and wellness programs, and a pool that was often the site of the annual Coastal Carolina Aquatic Association championship swim meet. Due to construction of the new school, the swim meet is being held this year at Crowfield Golf & Country Club.
Appel said there's a feeling that the JCC is too large for West Ashley, and too far away from some of the community it was meant to serve.
"There's a big concern that it doesn't serve the area where the growth is happening," he said. "I'm talking about Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island."
Mount Pleasant is where Chabad of Charleston and the Lowcountry is building the Center for Jewish Life, off Mathis Ferry Road.
"It's an interesting time, an exciting time," said Chabad of Charleston Rabbi Yossi Refson. "Some buildings close, and others open, but the Jewish community has never been as vibrant."
"JCCs around the county have had to readjust," he said. "We'll definitely be partnering with them, in our new building."
Like Appel, Refson said that unlike in the 1950s, there are plentiful options today for Jews who want to use a gym or go swimming. "The need is for a place where Jewish people can meet, and celebrate their heritage," Refson said.
Appel said many unanswered questions remain, but there are no plans to build a new JCC of similar scale elsewhere.
"One thing that's not on the table is replicating the existing footprint, in Mount Pleasant or Daniel Island," he said. "We feel that some scaling down is appropriate."
An email sent to JCC members Thursday by Executive Director Ronneca Watkins said the decision-making process that led to putting the building on the market started in 2013 when a Vision Committee was created. No sale of the JCC building would be completed before late 2015, when the new school is finished, the email said.
Regardless of the building, said Watkins, "Our future as the Jewish Community Center will continue and strengthen in its role as the 'connector' for the Jewish community of Charleston."
"A lot of things are on the table right now," said Appel. "The key thing to let people know is, we are going to be working with the community to determine the best course."
Reach David Slade at 937-5552
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