Many North Charleston neighborhoods near the old Charleston Navy Base suffered when the base closed, but the city's efforts are ongoing to turn the area into a vibrant recreational, residential and retail hub.
North Charleston City Council recently approved $22 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements in a special Noisette district just off the former base property.
The bonds won't be paid back by taxpayers directly. Instead, the city pay them back from higher property tax revenues from new construction and private renovations in the area.
The process will pay for public improvements, such as public parks and the city's acquiring properties along Spruill Avenue to help create more public parking for businesses there. The money also is expected to fund renovations to the old Chicora Elementary School.
City officials said the efforts will help the city fulfill its vision for thousands of acres that cover the old Navy base, Riverfront Park, Noisette Creek and several neighborhoods.
"I call it the renaissance of North Charleston," said Councilman Bob King.
Some work has already taken shape. Road improvements are currently under way along O'Hear Avenue, and sidewalks have been installed in Oak Terrace Preserve.
City officials said its payments for those projects will be reimbursed through part of the $22 million in new bonds; other projects will be presented in a public forum before they are approved.
Once-blighted city streets such as Spruill and Reynolds avenues have welcomed new restaurants and retail stores. The nonprofit Metanoia has helped establish affordable houses to the neighborhood as well.
The bond money will give the city the ability to ensure positive changes keep coming.
“We’re creating financial capacities to move forward," said Councilman Ron Brinson. "Things are beginning to come together."
The work has caused some inconvenience, with O'Hear Avenue closed off between East Montague and Empire avenues. But North East Park Circle Neighborhood President Gayle Frampton is not bothered too much by that.
"Bad roads can cause accidents," she said. "We really need to have those simple and productive as possible.”
While improvements have begun off-base, officials also have been mapping out changes on the base itself. Designs are already in place for a $6 million pedestrian bridge that would span Noisette Creek and expand Riverfront Park.
The bridge would span about 392 feet and help the park better accommodate large events. Brinson said some properties still need to be acquired before the effort moves forward.
City officials and residents agreed that the bond sales are a step toward helping North Charleston handle growth in the southern part of the city. Neighborhood leaders and residents have voiced concern about whether the city's infrastructure is keeping pace with the influx of more cars and new residents.