Some aging areas in West Ashley are about to get a face-lift.
Charleston City Council earlier this week unanimously approved a resolution to move forward with creating a redevelopment plan for the worn-out, suburban portion of the city west of the Ashley River. The plan must be completed and brought to City Council for consideration no later than June 30.
Many West Ashley residents for years have said the city’s time and resources were disproportionately used to make improvements downtown. And candidates who were running for mayor in the November election, including mayor-elect John Tecklenburg, promised them that improvements to West Ashley would be on the way.
City Planning Director Jacob Lindsey said the plan primarily will focus on making infrastructure improvements to Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and the area around Citadel Mall. To help pay for the redevelopment, a financing mechanism known as a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district will be used. That mechanism will cover the cost of property improvements — such as roads, sidewalks, lighting and drainage enhancements — with a portion of future tax revenue generated by the new development.
City Councilman Bill Moody, who represents a portion of West Ashley, said the improvements the city makes will provide an incentive for private development in West Ashley. “We’ll provide the infrastructure,” Moody said, and make the area an attractive place for economic development. “It will tell private developers, ‘These people are serious.’ ”
He also said creating the TIF was essential to the plan. “It’s critical,” Moody said. “Without it we wouldn’t be able to develop West Ashley. It would stay the way it is.”
Charlie Smith, a West Ashley resident and advocate, called the funding mechanism “one of the best tools in the box” for redevelopment.
He said he’s glad to see that city leaders are following through and working on West Ashley. But he’s also keeping an eye on areas that aren’t included in the redevelopment project, such as the area along Savannah Highway between Wappoo and Dupont roads.
Charlton deSaussure, an attorney who represents the city, said planners now will get to work deciding just what types of improvements will be included in the project area. There’s no estimate now on how much the improvements will cost or how much the TIF will generate, he said.
And city leaders must approach Charleston County and the Charleston County School District about whether they are willing to be a part of a plan that would require them also to give up increased tax revenue for a period of time.
“Where we are is the very beginning,” he said.
He also said that redevelopment areas such as the one in the works for West Ashley usually spur development and improvements beyond the district’s borders.
“It has a domino effect on things fanning out from the public entity,” he said. “It just feeds on itself.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.