Affordable housing in the works (copy)

Change for the area where the old Cooper River bridges once touched down stalled in the Great Recession, but the city of Charleston has a new plan to fund the improvements. File

The city of Charleston's long-delayed plan to improve the peninsula's upper East Side is showing signs of life again.

City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan for $12 million in bonds generated by a special tax district in that area to fund capital improvements for revitalization of parts of the East Side, North Central and East Central neighborhoods.

The tax increment financing district — or TIF district — is among many in the city and Charleston County, where new property tax revenue generated by development in the specified area are used to finance public amenities in that same area, such as new roads or drainage improvements.

Called the Cooper River Bridge TIF District, the 80-acre area stretches roughly from Cooper to Romney streets, and includes 8 acres of city-owned parcels left vacant when remnants of the Cooper River bridges were demolished about a decade ago.

The East Side neighborhood was split up when the newer part of the bridge was built there in the 1960s. Charleston officials began discussing ways to "reknit" the community around the same time the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge broke ground in 2001, but few projects have taken shape since.

Council provided the first funding mechanism to carry out those promises on Wednesday, but it still must figure out exactly how the money will be spent.

Some council members said they wanted to take a closer look at the draft list of projects approved by the city's Committee on Housing and Community Development last week.

It generally included:

  • $1 million for improvements to Huger Street.
  • $2 million for a drainage improvement study.
  • $2.25 million to renovate St. Julian Devine Community Center.
  • $1 million for pedestrian infrastructure.
  • $1.75 million for a bike and pedestrian path along Lee Street to connect the Ravenel Bridge path from East Bay Street to the future Lowline, which is envisioned for the former rail line about a block to the west across Meeting Street.
  • $2 million for Singleton Park improvements.
  • $2 million for a contingency fund.

"I think we need to put more elbow grease into the list," Councilman Keith Waring said. 

Mayor John Tecklenburg proposed hosting a workshop by the end of the year to come up with a plan council could agree on.

The overall revitalization efforts are estimated to cost more than $25 million. Other funding sources proposed include federal Community Development Block Grants, as well as local, state and federal transportation dollars.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.