Conservancy eyes makeover for St. Julian Devine park

The acre park outside the St. Julian Devine Community Center is being eyed for a $400,000 makeover. The renovation could remove its large berm along Cooper and East Bay streets.

One of Charleston’s most rugged industrial sites — the place where the city once burned its trash — soon might become one of its nicer parks.

The Charleston Parks Conservancy is planning a major upgrade for the St. Julian Devine Community Center Park — the acre parcel surrounding an old city incinerator — and it’s asking the public what changes should be made.

The conservancy will hold a workshop Wednesday at 1 Cooper St., and Conservancy Director Harry Lesesne said his group is interested in learning what changes residents most want to see.

“It’s the city’s major community center on the East Side, and it’s very visible,” Lesesne said. “But most people don’t even realize it’s a community center.”

The property’s use as an incinerator ended in the mid 20th century, and the city renovated it as a community center in the 1970s.

The property still is defined by a large berm along Cooper and East Bay streets that once supported a driveway for garbage trucks approaching the building.

“It’s exceedingly poorly organized,” Lesesne said of the site. “The mound is a huge limitation on the use of the space.”

The conservancy held a work session on the site last year, and it plans to remove the berm, create a gated entrance, build a seasonal garden with new shade trees, and redesign the playground and basketball courts.

But Lesesne said Wednesday’s input will shape the final design. “It is not set in stone,” he said. “We’d kind of like them to tell us what they want.”

If all goes smoothly, Lesesne said the conservancy hopes to finalize a design and figure out a public-private financing plan for a makeover, which he estimated would cost about $400,000. Work could begin later next year.

The conservancy already has done other major projects, including a renovation of Colonial Lake now under way.

The St. Julian Devine park would be its first major project on the East Side.

“It’s not really identified as a park, but we want to make it a park,” he said. “We want to turn it into a civic space that will be inviting.”

Reach Robert Behre at (843) 937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.