8af5/1239137423-pumpstationsketch_resized.jpg City Preps Drainage Plan

For Federal Stimulus Aid

Though there’s no money to start the project, the City of Charleston is moving ahead with plans for the $127 million Spring/Fishburne U.S. 17 drainage improvements, with officials eyeing federal stimulus cash that could put the project on the fast track.

The city has made improvements in problem areas throughout the downtown region, but work in the Spring/Fishburne area has been put off because of the excessive cost.

City stormwater officials received preliminary approval last week from Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review for a Crosstown pump station that would flow into the Ashley River off Lockwood Drive between the two bridges that connect the peninsula to West Ashley. The hope is that securing permits and easements for the project will increase the appeal when the city makes a pitch for Federal Highway Administration money, says Laura Cabiness, the city’s public services director.

“Projects that are shovel-ready will be looked at more favorably, so we have to make sure we have it in shape,” she says.

After years of sparse resources to start such a massive endeavour, the city had started looking at ways to divide the project into phases, stretching it out for years in order to pay for it. But the possibility of receiving federal money has the city looking in the opposite direction — condensing what would was first expected to be a four-year-project into one that will last as little as two and a half, Cabiness says.

Last month, city council members went to Washington to lobby S.C. congressmen on a number of Charleston issues, including support for the drainage project. Councilman Gary White says that he was encouraged by the response.

“Everyone we spoke to was already aware of the project and the need, and they were supportive of finding the money for the project,” he says.

The more than $5 million the city has invested in designing the project also provides a clear signal to Washington that Charleston “already has some skin in the game,” he says. It’s also made the project the essence of “shovel ready.”

“Aside from the money, it’s about as close as you can get,” White says.

Also on the BAR’s agenda Wednesday:
• A proposal to demolish a two story building at 79 Wentworth St. and build a six-story, 36-room boutique hotel.
• A request from Starbucks to add pergolas out front and a fresh coat of paint at the College of Charleston site, 168 Calhoun St. —Greg Hambrick

Update: The BAR loved the pump station — it was evident that this was the closest thing to architect porn. They were slightly less thrilled with the boutique hotel on Wentworth, with the consensus seeming to be that it could benefit from losing the top floor, even though it fits in the city’s height zoning. That project was deferred to give the architect time to address the height and other concerns.

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