North Charleston city leaders announced a plan late Thursday to buy the troubled Shipwatch Square shopping center on Rivers Avenue for $2.5 million.

Top among their revitalization plans are attracting a grocery store to serve a part of the city where there are none, even if it takes creative leasing on the city's part to ensure a long-term tenant.

Additionally, the plans announced by Mayor Keith Summey call for razing most of the 18-acre property and bringing in new retail sites, along with housing for those with assisted-living needs, seniors and people suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The purchase was announced

following an executive session in which all members of City Council had gathered for their bi-monthly committee meetings and were briefed in private. Details were so fresh that Summey and other city staffers could not readily identify the owner, other than to say it involves a financing company.

Winn-Dixie had been the last major supermarket chain at the shopping center. It vacated its anchor operation at Shipwatch Square in September 2005, meaning tens of thousands of people in the area have to go miles before finding a chain grocery store.

In order to land a long-term grocery tenant, Summey said the city would look at various creative approaches, such as the city building the store itself, or possibly even allowing free rent for a period of time or basing rent on sales.

The property is in the district of Councilman Kurt Taylor, who said there are no grocery stores south of the Mark Clark Expressway in the city. If a store comes in, there would be no shortage of customers nor profits, Taylor added, because there is such a demand for a local supermarket.

When the site opened in September 1959, the outlet that would become known as Shipyard Square was the largest mall in the state.