The Charleston County School District and the city of Charleston are teaming up on a plan to turn an unused school building into affordable housing, and at the same time, shore up funds to restore Burke High School's football field.
The district plans to sell its Archer School property on Nassau Street to the city for $3.25 million after about a year of looking for a buyer.
If City Council approves the deal, the city would redevelop it primarily for an affordable housing facility with a possible mix of other uses.
The agreement specifies that at least 30 percent of the units would have to be offered to district employees at affordable rates.
City officials haven't worked out how much the redevelopment would cost, when it might be completed, or how many total units it might offer.
Michelle Nichols, a Moultrie Middle School teacher and member of the Charleston Teachers Alliance, said she was impressed with the concept. She said while she's not personally in need of housing, she knows many young teachers who are.
"I've heard other teachers say how difficult it is to survive on one income ... and live where they teach," she said. "I think it's a fabulous idea, and I applaud the district for trying to make that agreement for teachers."
The city would pay for the property with a grant from the Local Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that primarily makes loans to locally owned businesses to foster economic development. It was infused with $22.8 million in June when the Charleston Place developer paid back money it borrowed to construct the luxury hotel in the mid-1980s.
The school district already owes the city $2.27 million for property exchanges made in 2011, so the net cost to the city is a little less than $1 million.
As a part of the deal, the district would agree to spend the proceeds plus another $1 million to renovate Burke's Stoney Field, a total of $4.2 million.
The city owns Stoney Field but it's used by the downtown high school. Burke's football team has been playing at other schools' facilities since 2015, when heavy rains made its home field unplayable.
A few members of City Council's Real Estate Committee on Monday raised concerns about the purchase agreement.
Councilman Keith Waring said the city shouldn't buy the school property if it doesn't know what it will cost to redevelop it. The school's main building is historic and can't be demolished.
Mayor John Tecklenburg said it's a good deal overall because the property spans an entire city block with vacant land that can be developed for housing. He said preliminary studies have shown that the building itself can be retrofitted in a cost-effective design.
"It’ll be a herculean renovation, but it’s doable," he said.
The committee postponed its decision for two weeks. In that time, city staff will ask the district to extend the timeline so the city can inspect the Archer School before agreeing to buy it.
The proposal comes amid a region-wide affordable housing shortage, a crisis most acutely felt in centralized areas like the Charleston peninsula where housing prices are far outpacing workers' wages.