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Charleston County breaks ground on long-awaited North Charleston library

NORTH CHARLESTON — A long-anticipated library is finally underway on the city's southern end.

Charleston County officials broke ground May 17 on the Keith Summey North Charleston Library that will replace the recently closed Cooper River Memorial Library at 3503 Rivers Ave. 

Mayor Keith Summey said at the ceremony he feels a little embarrassed the library is named after him, suggesting it should instead honor his wife, Debbie Summey, a former educator.

keith summey library rendering.jpg

A rendering of the Keith Summey North Charleston Library, May 17, 2021. Lauren Petracca/Staff

At the end of the day, the library is for the community, he said.

"This building is not in honor of me," Summey said. "It's in honor, I believe, of the people of North Charleston." 

The $14 million facility on the same site will reuse a renovated portion of the old library. 

The new building will include a 100-seat community room, outdoor reading areas, self-checkout, a community classroom and a study room.

The facility's computers will also be a great asset because a lot of North Charleston children lack access to that kind of technology, Summey said. 

"I hopefully see my family, and others, get a lot of use out of it," he said.

The project comes several years after Charleston County residents approved a 2014 referendum to issue $108 million in bonds to build five new libraries and renovate 13 others.

The 20,000-square-foot facility is also larger than the originally promised 15,000-square-foot North Charleston building voters approved.

"Good things come to those who wait," said County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.

Voters' also funded new facilities in Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley and Hollywood.

The North Charleston site is the fifth and last of the new slate of libraries to be built, said Angela Craig, executive director of the Charleston County Public Library.

As the building undergoes construction, library operations have moved temporarily to 2036 Cherokee St.

"We are deeply committed to North Charleston," Craig said.

The new building is expected to help bring progress to the city's southern end, where many neighborhoods are poverty-stricken and have lacked investment.

The library will be in the vicinity of other development efforts expected to help revitalize the corridor, including the county's social services hub that is under construction. Also, across the street is the former Charleston Naval Hospital that will be transformed into apartments.

County Councilwoman Anna Johnson, whose district covers James Island, said the new project indicates North Charleston's southern end is not being "left out" of progress.

"Every library we've built has transformed the communities," Johnson said.

Charleston County anticipates the facility will be completed by late May or early June 2022.

Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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