2 projects, 2 reasons for delay

Just past Meeting Street, a several-block-long footprint runs between Lee and Cooper streets where the old bridges once stood. This area ultimately could see the greatest amount of change, as new development on these grassy, vacant blocks begins to emerge.

It’s going to take a little longer to bring back to life the area where the old Cooper River bridges once touched down.

Two projects planned to revitalize the barren, flood-prone area bounded by Meeting, America, Cooper and Lee streets have been delayed.

One of them is an affordable housing complex, a joint project between the city of Charleston and the Charleston Housing Authority. That is planned for the two westernmost blocks.

The other is South Carolina State University’s community education center, planned for the corner of America and Lee streets.

Don Cameron, president of the Housing Authority, said a storm water problem came up after the authority began taking a closer look at the property in September.

The city’s existing storm water system can’t handle the additional drainage the complex will generate, so the authority is still studying possible solutions before closing the deal. One solution could involve building underground retention ponds beneath a parking garage, he said.

Cameron said he hopes the city will transfer the property to the Housing Authority in July, with construction beginning in the summer of 2017.

The development will include 55 apartments in two buildings. Twenty units will be two-bedroom apartments for moderate income people, and the other 35 will be one- to three-bedroom units for very low income families. It also will include five townhomes on Lee Street available to first-time home buyers, Cameron said.

City Councilman Robert Mitchell said he and other council members are keeping a close eye on the project and pushing for the complex to be built as soon as possible.

“The community is watching and waiting,” he said.

He said the community also is questioning why the S.C. State building isn’t yet underway. That project is being built with federal funds at no cost to the university, he said. “To me, it doesn’t make any sense to hold it up.”

S.C. State officials have said the education center would offer non-credit education programs for youth and adults such as financial literacy, 4-H programs, and nutrition and obesity prevention. The building also will be the headquarters for S.C. State’s outreach programs in the tri-county area.

But the project has been held up over a land transfer that the school’s interim Board of Trustees must approve.

The land on which the center is to be built is part of the 6-acre area that the state Department of Transportation turned over to the city, which has agreed to transfer a corner lot to the university.

Charles Way, chairman of S.C. State’s interim board, said the board didn’t know until three weeks ago that the project was in the works. Moving forward involves accepting land, which comes with liability, he said.

Way said he wants to understand the project better before accepting the land, so he asked for a report from the university’s attorney. Way said he received the report earlier this week but hasn’t yet had time to review it.

“I don’t want to take on the liability without enough information,” he said.

He’s not opposed to the center, he said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing, especially if it’s federal money. I just want to make sure everything is fine.”

Arthur Lawrence, a community leader and former president of the Westside Neighborhood Association, said many people are questioning why the project is being held up. And, he added, he hopes politics aren’t slowing things down.

Michael Allen, president of the Charleston chapter of the university’s alumni association, said his group is looking forward to the center being completed.

“It gives another positive, visible face to S.C, State in the Lowcountry,” he said.

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