The city of Charleston on Tuesday completed the purchase of an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store site at a prominent West Ashley intersection, securing its future as a symbol of the West Ashley revitalization effort.
After months of negotiations, Wintergreen Capital, a Charlotte-based development firm, agreed to sell its 2½-acre site at Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Sumar Street to the city for $3 million — about $1 million more than the firm paid for it in 2014.
City Council earlier this year gave Mayor John Tecklenburg the authority to declare eminent domain to force its sale, but the city reached the deal without using that often controversial tactic to acquire private property.
The straight purchase broadens the options the city has for its redevelopment. When governments use eminent domain, they have to use the property for the overall public good, such as a park space, utility or police station.
"We're not bound to the requirements that eminent domain imposes on a private property. However, we are dedicated to finding the highest and best use for the site," City Planner Jacob Lindsey said. "Certainly, that may include some public function, but we are just in the beginning phases and have not determined final use yet."
In April, Tecklenburg said one of the main reasons for wanting to take the property was to improve the Old Towne Road intersection — the so-called suicide merge — at the north end of the property.
Lindsey said that's still a crucial part of the plan. The Charleston County transportation department has started the long, complicated process of designing the intersection improvements.
As for the rest of the property, city real estate officials have begun assessing the land and the former Piggly Wiggly building that's been vacant for about four years.
Lindsey said that should take a few months, then they can begin shaping the plan.
"We need to understand the condition of the site and the building thoroughly first," he said. "This is a critically important gateway into West Ashley, and a vibrant redevelopment of the site is crucial to West Ashley’s revitalization."