For less than it would cost to air two minutes of ads during “NFL Sunday Night Football” on NBC, North Charleston will purchase a 380,000-square-foot hospital building in a key part of the city.
In a few weeks, North Charleston is expected to close a $2 million deal to purchase the former Naval Hospital at Rivers and McMillan streets.
It is unclear what the city will do with the property. But the 24-acre site itself is worth the city’s investment. It is directly across the street from Shipwatch Square, which the city is revitalizing in hopes of injecting new life in the south end of the city.
It is near where a new port is to be built and near rail.
When city council members toured the hospital this week, they found another reason to be glad they voted to buy it. To a large extent, it is still in good condition. The federal government has continued to maintain it even though it has been partially vacant for almost two decades and altogether vacant for two years.
So now all that has to happen is for North Charleston leaders to develop some plans for the 40-year-old building.
Council members and city staff have tossed around some ideas. It could provide office space for nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies. It could incorporate housing. It could be used by a college. It could serve a maritime-related function.
But whatever the use, Mayor Keith Summey says he wants to see it stimulate the local economy. That’s the right approach. The site is near a depressed area that the city is already focusing on helping. Giving people a reason to come to the area to work or live or shop would aid in that effort.
The federal government built the 500-bed hospital for more than $18.5 million. It served the military community well.
Now it can serve the broader community for a fraction of that cost.