City growing greener with new gym, community center

Hundreds of people attended the Wednesday dedication of the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center in Charleston.

Charleston's new Arthur W. Christopher Community Center, one of the first buildings in South Carolina constructed with the help of federal stimulus funds, was dedicated Wednesday on the city's West Side.

The gymnasium and community center features "green" building materials and solar panels that will make it "the only LEED-certified gym, community center, in South Carolina," Mayor Joe Riley told a large crowd gathered at the ceremony.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings are those meeting different levels of U.S. Green Building Council standards for energy efficiency. The community center, which is seeking LEED gold status, features solar panels to heat the adjacent Herbert Hassell city pool, extra insulation, cabinets made of wheatboard and tile, pervious paving in parking areas to reduce stormwater runoff and cement partially made from recycled materials.

Riley and public officials, including Councilman William Dudley Gregorie and state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, said the building is a fitting tribute to the late Councilman Arthur Christopher, who was elected to council in 1975 when Riley was first elected mayor. "It was a time of challenge, and change," Riley said. "Arthur Christopher provided leadership for change, and progress."

Myron Christopher, one of the late councilman's three sons, called the building "a prime example of what can happen when you have a responsive government listening to the wishes of the people."

The community center replaces the Arthur Christopher City Gym, which was about half the size of the new 24,000-square-foot community center. The gym was sold to The Citadel in 2006 for $2.2 million, and the city used that money toward the $7.3 million cost of the new building. The city also used $700,844 in stimulus grants, most of which was from the U.S. Department of Energy and was required to be spent on energy efficiency.

The building on Fishburne Street, across from Burke High School, includes a gymnasium with a full-size basketball court and bleachers that pull out to seat about 400, a large multipurpose room, a fitness room with exercise equipment, a playroom for small children, a game room, a small library with computer terminals, locker rooms and a kitchen that can serve as a concession stand.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.