North Charleston City Council on Thursday agreed to give a nonprofit group 18 months to line up investors to renovate the rundown former Chicora Elementary School.
The Rev. Bill Stanfield, CEO of community development organization Metanoia, has said the group needs to have control of the historic building so that it can get a financial plan in place to renovate it. The plan includes raising at least $9 million in donations, grants and other kinds of financing.
The nonprofit estimates it will cost $6 million to restore the 1930s school for use by an early childhood center, start-up companies, artists and more.
The agreement also includes the possibility of a six-month extension at a cost of $10,000 to Metanoia.
If Metanoia fails to attract sufficient investors, the city can opt out on a 50-year lease with the group.
The long-term lease allows Metanoia to use the building for just $1 annually for five years, then goes to $1,000 per month with a 3 percent increase annually, for a total of $1.35 million over a half century.
The lease also includes the option to buy the building for $205,000 after the renovations and before the lease expires.
The renovation will bring jobs and programs into the mostly low-income Chicora-Cherokee community, according to city officials.
When the issue was first presented to a council committee in the spring, members cited the length of the lease as the reason they wanted to mull it over for up to 90 days. The Finance Committee backed the plan by a 9-1 vote last week, with Councilman Ron Brinson absent, and City Council backed it by a 10-1 vote on Thursday. There was no discussion.
Councilman Todd Olds cast the dissenting vote both times. He has said he felt the lease was too long.
The city of North Charleston acquired the site in a deal with the Charleston County School District. The city provided the land for the new Chicora School of Communications, and the district turned over the former school building to the city.
The Success Street building has architectural and historic significance, but age, decay, theft and vandalism have made it an uninhabitable eyesore, according to city officials.
For more than five years, it has sat vacant as thieves stole its copper and rats infested its hallways.