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After some last-minute funding maneuvers, Charleston approved the terms of a construction contract for a long-awaited bike and pedestrian bridge connecting downtown and West Ashley.It now awaits federal approval before the mayor can sign off on it and work can begin.As construction firms submitted proposals for the project this summer, local leaders became aware that their most recent ...
After some last-minute funding maneuvers, Charleston approved the terms of a construction contract for a long-awaited bike and pedestrian bridge connecting downtown and West Ashley.
It now awaits federal approval before the mayor can sign off on it and work can begin.
As construction firms submitted proposals for the project this summer, local leaders became aware that their most recent cost projections were insufficient.
That’s when the estimate ballooned from $42 million about a year ago to about $74 million today. As a result, city officials had to secure more funding from county, state and federal agencies. In addition to dipping into the city’s hospitality tax funds, the Medical University of South Carolina chipped in too.
In total, the city’s contribution to the project via hospitality tax funds stands at $13 million.
Construction bidders attributed the higher-than-expected cost projections to rising interest rates, as well as increased labor and material costs. The winning bid came in at $73.8 million.
City leaders had considered scaling the project back when the new estimates were calculated but Councilman Mike Seekings said South Carolina Transportation Secretary Christy Hall was determined to find additional help from all levels of government to bring the project across the finish line.
“Secretary Hall put her money where her mouth is,” he said.
With Hall’s help securing an additional $30 million committed from various agencies, the city was able to move forward with a contract with civil contractor, Superior Construction.
Charleston City Council voted 11-1 on Sept. 26 to authorize the mayor to sign off on the contract once it gets approval from the Federal Highway Administration. Councilwoman Caroline Parker voted against the authorization and Councilman William Dudley Gregorie was absent.
If all goes according to plans, the contract will be signed within the next few weeks and design work can begin. Signing the contract locks down a “guaranteed maximum price” from the contractor, which can only fluctuate within a certain percentage of the total project cost. Any additional overrun would need special approval from City Council.
Design is expected to take about one year and construction about three years, said Jason Kronsberg, Charleston parks director and the project manager for the effort.
There should only be minor disruptions to road and boat traffic during construction, he added. It will tie into the existing West Ashley Greenway and cross the Ashley just south of the U.S. Highway 17 vehicular bridges.
Despite the cost estimate struggles, city leaders struck an optimistic tone saying that the project will be transformative for the city.
“It’s a game changer,” Kronsberg said. “Its a significant infrastructure project that will be just as successful as the Ravenel Bridge bike and pedestrian lane when it was first implemented ... If you build it, they will come.”
Councilman Peter Shahid, who is running for mayor, said the project is not only a recreational amenity but also an important piece of the city’s transportation network. It will provide commuters who travel on foot or ride bikes a safe crossing to the city’s employment hub and also could relieve some traffic on the existing vehicular bridges in the same area.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Big plans are approved for an affordable housing complex in West Ashley. The news sparked excitement among some neighbors, but concerns about traffic and the location as well.The city’s housing department, council members and neighbors agree, affordable housing is a need in West Ashley. But the development does come with a lot of planning and factors to consider when approving a plan.City of Charleston District 2 Councilmember Kevin Shealy says he initially did not support a 2020 zone change of t...
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Big plans are approved for an affordable housing complex in West Ashley. The news sparked excitement among some neighbors, but concerns about traffic and the location as well.
The city’s housing department, council members and neighbors agree, affordable housing is a need in West Ashley. But the development does come with a lot of planning and factors to consider when approving a plan.
City of Charleston District 2 Councilmember Kevin Shealy says he initially did not support a 2020 zone change of the property from general business to diverse residential.
“At that time and in 2020, there was a there was an office building sitting there and it’s actually a good location for an office building because people may not have to drive downtown to go to work. They can work and live in the same place which fits in with the West Ashley Revitalization,” Shealy says.
In March of 2023, the planning commission approved initial design plans for the complex. Shealy says he is an advocate for affordable housing, but wants to make sure it’s being put in practical places.
Jerry Gray, who has lived in the area for about 15 years, thinks incoming affordable housing is good news.
“Charleston can be the land of opportunity for a lot of people. And it’s also a window of opportunity for people who want to start out. So having some level of affordable housing where people can start out, start building an American Dream is critical for any neighborhood,” Gray says.
While he says he’s excited about the complex and the opportunities it can bring, he admits that traffic does cross his mind when a project like this is approved.
“Highway 61, we want to keep it as a scenic road. So yeah, traffic would be a problem and a consideration but again, there’s work around for that,” Gray says.
Shealy says he also worries about traffic for people who live in his district. He explains that the South Carolina Department of Transportation grades state roads on a scale from A to F.
“Ashley River Road during peak times grade is an E, and it’s very close to an F. And it probably will be one day unless we can do something about those roads. Hopefully we get some help from the state, state or county and maybe they can help with traffic flowing,” Shealy says.
Gray referenced how widening Glenn McConnell Parkway and the development of Bees Ferry Road has created a connector between areas and will solve some of the traffic woes.
“So those things can be overcome with good planning,” Gray believes.
Shealy says he wants to see hard workers in Charleston like firefighters, police officers and teachers live and enjoy the same area where they work.
“We need affordable housing in the right locations. Live work and play. That’s kind of what the West Ashley revitalization idea said. But that’s also a reason for us to make sure we have commercial properties out in West Ashley out in the western part of West Ashley so that everybody’s not driving to downtown, causing these traffic congestions,” Shealy says.
Shealy says while he initially did not approve of the housing complex, now that it’s on its way, he is dedicated to making sure it fits into the neighborhood.
Gray says he is excited to see more people enjoying the area and hopes the city does its due diligence incorporating plans for runoff, traffic and other aspects of development in the plans.
To learn more about the details of the complex, click here.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.
Bearcat was supposed to open last spring, but owner George Kovach isn’t lamenting the past. Rather, the former Chicago fine dining chef is looking forward to the future when the new restaurant’s dining room opens Nov. 14 at 25 Magnolia Road in West A...
Bearcat was supposed to open last spring, but owner George Kovach isn’t lamenting the past. Rather, the former Chicago fine dining chef is looking forward to the future when the new restaurant’s dining room opens Nov. 14 at 25 Magnolia Road in West Ashley.
Avondale diners can already get a taste of what Kovach and head chef John Coleman are cooking at Bearcat’s bar, now open at the same address with smoked chicken yakitori, grilled Steamboat Creek oysters with creamed leeks and more. It’s hours of operation are 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesday through Saturday.
“Now’s where the work begins,” Kovach said. “It’s all about getting everything refined and making sure that the guest experience is the best we can provide.”
An alumnus of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurants Elizabeth Restaurant, Ever, Acadia and Band of Bohemia, Kovach moved from Chicago to Charleston at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of turning an elevated pop-up he hosted in a friend’s apartment and local dining establishments into a full-service restaurant.
After months of delays, that goal finally became a reality Oct. 27, when the 30-seat bar area next to Bearcat’s dining room held a soft opening. Similar to the lounges inside high-end tasting menu restaurants — like three-Michelin star restaurant Jean Georges’ adjoining Nougatine bar in New York City — Bearcat’s bar is serving its own small menu of shareable plates and cocktails, including a boozy Vietnamese iced coffee and frozen strawberry daiquiri with white rum and green chartreuse.
Coleman, Bearcat’s head chef, has worked in multiple well known local kitchens, including Chubby Fish and Parcel 32, where he served as executive chef before the restaurant announced it would not return to service after the state’s dine-in ban was lifted amid the pandemic. Coleman, who met Kovach through a mutual friend, has lived in the Avondale neighborhood for five years.
Just a few turns off Savannah Highway, as the car dealerships and fast-food joints give way to expansive views of saltwater and marsh, a one-story home is nestled among a thicket of wildlife.Four massive live oak trees anchor the lawn. Bird feeders dangle from the heavy branches. A gravel path snakes its way through nearly 100 species of flowering plants, trees, grasses, shrubs and more. Bees, butterflies and other animals flap and crawl, happy to call this place home.Elliotte Quinn has created an oasis in his front yard....
Just a few turns off Savannah Highway, as the car dealerships and fast-food joints give way to expansive views of saltwater and marsh, a one-story home is nestled among a thicket of wildlife.
Four massive live oak trees anchor the lawn. Bird feeders dangle from the heavy branches. A gravel path snakes its way through nearly 100 species of flowering plants, trees, grasses, shrubs and more. Bees, butterflies and other animals flap and crawl, happy to call this place home.
Elliotte Quinn has created an oasis in his front yard.
Quinn, who moved with his family to Edgewater Park three years ago, is part of a growing number of property owners choosing to embrace native planting. The technique uses specific plant species to attract native pollinators, ultimately creating a balanced food web.
Proponents argue native plants help battle erosion, reduce air pollution and promote biodiversity. Pesticides and lawn mowers are no longer needed as the ecosystem begins to keep itself in check.
Native yards vastly differ depending on the gardener. But they almost never fit the mold of a traditional American lawn — grassy and weedless, with a few evergreen bushes framing the front, said David Manger, owner of Roots and Shoots, a native plant nursery in West Ashley.
A native yard, particularly to the untrained eye, can look wild and unkempt, Manger said. Some property owners find themselves fighting community associations, disapproving neighbors or government ordinances to keep their chosen aesthetic.
Quinn can attest. The father of three, who works during the day as a lawyer specializing in construction defects, has received two complaints in under a year from Charleston County’s zoning and planning department.
Code enforcement officers told him the front yard violated an ordinance concerning weeds and rank vegetation. The most recent complaint — a June 7 letter shared with The Post and Courier — threatened a summons and hefty fine if he didn’t get rid of the “overgrowth.”
Both times, after Quinn explained his choice to cultivate the yard with native plants, county officials dropped the case.
Quinn’s passion for native planting exploded during summer 2020, in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. He started a vegetable garden with his young daughters, spurred by a childhood interest in wildlife and conservation.
They grew tomatoes and pumpkins, but worms began destroying the plants. Not wanting to spray the garden with pesticides, Quinn began reading about natural alternatives. He learned what he could plant to attract predator insects.
“That kind of spiraled off into something of an obsession with native plants,” he said.
Quinn ripped up the grass in his front yard, tossed out some seeds and bedded a few plants. He eventually hired someone to turn over the topsoil, put down compost and create gravel walkways.
The garden — which his daughters affectionately call “Quinn’s Meadow” — grew from there.
Green is the dominant color across the yard. But if a visitor sat on the front porch swing where Quinn likes to spend early mornings, they’d notice pockets of flowers interspersed with grass and fruit trees. They might hear the chirp of a painted bunting, delighting in its feathery rainbow of reds, blues and greens.
Manger, who used to lead the Charleston Permaculture Guild, said the number of people committing to sustainable agriculture has increased over the years. He’s noticed property owners beginning to steer away from typical yard spaces.
Edgewater Park, where Quinn lives, doesn’t have a homeowners association. But Manger said more people are coming to Roots and Shoots for advice on how to use native plants and work around stringent rules.
A compromise, for instance, could be to cover half of the yard with native plants and leave a small mowing strip of grass at the front, Manger said. This signals to neighbors the garden is both maintained and intentionally designed.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston Community Development Commission discussed the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street Thursday night for the first time since last month after a city council meeting deferred discussions due to a split vote.The meeting lasted for three hours as commissioners argued back and forth, with some advocating for green space to be the f...
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston Community Development Commission discussed the development of the old Piggly Wiggly lot on Sumar Street Thursday night for the first time since last month after a city council meeting deferred discussions due to a split vote.
The meeting lasted for three hours as commissioners argued back and forth, with some advocating for green space to be the focus, and others wanting the project to focus on revitalization.
City officials and the public were asked for their input on three different proposals last month, with the first option including underground parking, outdoor areas and a civic building.
Option one was the most popular with 72% of the community in favor of the design, yet approval failed in a split decision vote by the city council.
“I just want to say I’m a little surprised and disappointed that it seems like the politicians are just not listening to the residents of West Ashley,” community member Sharon Gardner says.
Thursday’s meeting was set with plans of potential action for the project, but after hours of heated discussion, the only decision made was to develop another proposal with a design only including civic building and green space.
“I think we need to develop another option,” Charleston City Councilmember, William Dudley Gregorie, says. “We need to develop another option that is green space, and municipal space, and let the people of West Ashley take a look at that.”
The motion was made even after dozens of members of the public continued to push for option one.
“Having something in our community to allow us to gather is very important,” West Ashley resident William Tinkler says. “I’ve talked with many people in the last couple of months, and I can tell that people in West Ashley, they want action; they want something done now.”
Although the meeting was held by the Charleston Community Development Commission, almost every member of the Charleston City Council joined, saying no project in the city’s history has had this large of a public response.
“Approach this effort in this project through the lens of West Ashley revitalization,” councilmember Ross Appel says. “We need to find a way to jumpstart the economy of West Ashley; because let’s face it, West Ashley does lag behind other parts of the city and other parts of the region.”
Unless one voting member changes their mind, at this rate the decision will simply remain split.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg himself is on the side of economic growth.
“If we approve it, we would be able to move forward and get something going, that includes the multi-uses that respectfully many hundreds of our citizens weigh in upon over the last few years,” Tecklenburg says. “It’s a good option; it will revitalize the West Ashley, it’s a good way to go”
A community member who has been involved in the process says this is the nineteenth meeting on the development in the last six years.
Robert Mitchell, Perry Waring, William Dudley Gregorie and Caroline Parker were in favor of Thursday’s motion to develop another proposal with design only including civic building and green space. Mayor John Tecklenburg, Ross Appel and Jason Sakran were opposed.
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