City’s newest park has plenty of perks

Crews work on a pergola to hold swings at the new Gadsdenboro Park on Concord Street downtown. The park opens to the public on Saturday.

Flood-proofing the new Gadsdenboro Park in the low-lying area near the South Carolina Aquarium wasn’t easy, but the playing fields there will dry faster after a strong rain than any other park in Charleston.

The city on Saturday will hold a grand opening celebration for the 5-acre park, formerly called Concord Park. It’s directly across from the Charleston Maritime Center and sits at the center of a 10-acre parcel that is bordered by Calhoun, Concord, Laurens and Washington streets.

The city brought in dirt to raise the park a few feet higher, said Dustin Clemens, the city’s director of capital projects. Then it installed a drainage system of perforated pipes under the playing fields, where people can play soccer, lacrosse, football and other sports.

“They can play on them after a rain faster than any field in the city,” he said.

On a tour Wednesday, Clemens pointed to the park’s many features, including a walking path around the fields and playgrounds, game tables, a bocce court, a fountain and public restrooms around the park’s outer edge.

Nearby residents used to frequently use the open area to let their dogs run off-leash. But Clemens said dogs on leashes will be allowed in the park, but not on the playing fields.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the $5.7 million park is special because it has something for people of all ages. Young children can play on the nautical-themed playground equipment, older children can participate in sports, and adults and senior citizens can take walks, sit on benches and play games. Bench-size swings, similar to those at Waterfront Park have been ordered, he said, so soon people will be able to sit on them and enjoy the breeze from the nearby Cooper River.

“It will be greatly loved and heavily used,” Riley said.

Plans are in the works for commercial development on the north side of the 10-acre parcel near Calhoun Street. And the five-story Williams Terrace Senior Housing building, which is expected to open in October, will sit on the southwest corner of the property.

The land has a long history in the public realm, starting out as the site of public housing built in the 1940s. During Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the 162-unit Ansonborough Homes complex was severely hit by the storm and flood waters. A later analysis showed that the grounds were contaminated by an old coal gasification plant, and the homes were demolished in 1992.

The contamination was subsequently cleaned up, but the land has sat vacant for more than a decade.

The new park “will bring a lot of life to the area,” Riley said. “You will see people walk many blocks to use the park.”

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