Church Creek Plaza demolition underway

Demolition begins on Church Creek Plaza in West Ashley. The vacant strip mall has been an eyesore for years, with knee-high weeds in the parking lots, broken glass, mold and graffiti.

Demolition began Monday on the crumbling, vacant Church Creek Plaza, finally bringing relief to neighbors who for years have been appalled by the eyesore.

Michelle Nemeth, who lives near the run-down strip mall on S.C. Highway 61 at Parsonage Road in West Ashley said she was thrilled to learn the mall finally would come down. She no longer will have to look at the overgrown weeds, broken windows, graffiti, garbage and vagrants who hang out in and around the vacant shops every time she leaves her house.

“It’s the best thing ever,” Nemeth said. “I wish I could go sing in the parking lot.”

Charleston County spokesman Shawn Smetana said the demolition will take several days, and county officials are not aware of future plans for the site.

Morton Scholnick of Troy, Mich., has owned the property for about 36 years. Scholnick did not respond to a message for comment Monday about his plans for the property.

County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, who represents the area and has been pushing for the mall to be torn down and the property cleaned up, is out of town and couldn’t be reached for comment. But she said earlier this month that the demolition plan was most recently delayed because it was discovered the building contained asbestos, the removal of which required a special permit from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

County officials in early 2014 began aggressively pushing Scholnick to clean up the property, which had been in a state of decay for years. But Scholnick had health problems and other issues that delayed progress.

If the strip mall were in the city of Charleston, officials could clean it up and place a lien against the out-of-state owner for the cost. Although it falls within the city’s borders, it sits in a “donut hole” of unincorporated Charleston County. Under state law, the county doesn’t have the right to place a lien.

Wendy Molinaroli said she drives past Church Creek Plaza about twice a day to get to her home in the Springfield neighborhood. When she first moved to the area 15 years ago, there was a grocery store, pharmacy, video store and other shops in the mall. But they began closing several years ago. All of them eventually closed except the lone hold-out, a Chinese carry-out place. “I’m surprised a meth lab didn’t show up there,” she said. “I’m delighted to see that thing coming down.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.