If you’ve spent any amount of time enjoying the flowers in Allan Park, the sound of cascading water at the Chapel Street Fountain, or appreciated the foliage heading into South Windermere shopping center, you have the Charleston Parks Conservancy to thank. The nonprofit’s members are the keepers of some of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. Now they’re adding concessions to their parks improvement plan.

At the Aug. 18 City Council meeting, final approval was given to a lease agreement between the City of Charleston and the Conservancy that will allow the the organization to renovate and manage underutilized facilities at Hampton Park. So what does this mean? Conservancy Executive Director Harry Lesesne breaks it down for us.

1. Charleston Parks Conservancy now has a 25-year lease agreement on:

  •  The former police horse stables 
  •  The superintendent’s cottage at the park’s northeast corner 
  •  The snack stand near the lagoon

2. The organization plans to use all the spaces as a means to improve the park and as a revenue generator.

“The Conservancy is funded in small part by the city, but mainly by individuals and partners. Often a neighborhood will pitch in to help improve a space, like Allan Park, but that doesn’t always cover the maintenance of the green space once it’s been renovated,” says Lesesne. That’s where the Hampton Park Project will come in.  

The horse stables and superintendent’s cottage will be transformed into a multi-use venue that can be rented out for events such as weddings and parties. “Locals resident will then be able to rent the space for a 33 percent discount,” says Lesesne. As for parking, which has been one of the most contentious parts of the plan, 125 spaces will be put in behind the superintendent’s cottage in an area currently used for city maintenance.

“It connects to an entrance on Grove Street, so the parking will be hidden from the main part of Hampton Park,” says Lesesne.

Meanwhile the cafe — which was built in 1984 and decommissioned in ’92 due to a lack of use — will offer a small menu of snacks. The city has vetoed amplified music, but Lesesne says they could have live music “like a cellist or guitar player.” And there’s plans to do local art installations around the cafe vicinity as well. 

3. The cafe will be affordable for all.

The Conservancy plans to issue the request for proposals in the next two weeks for a food and beverage partner to run both the cafe and the horse stable/superintendent house venue, and Lesesne says one of the main contingencies is that the business make the food affordable for everyone. 

“This is going to be a family-friendly cafe,” says Lesesne. “We want kids to be able to come here and get a milkshake. I could also see people sitting out here at cafe tables enjoying coffee and a Danish in the morning, then coming back for a glass of wine at night.

4. Yep, they’ll serve beer and wine.

The Hampton Park cafe has been approved for beer and wine sales, but this won’t be a late-night booze fest. “We have to close at 9 p.m. per the city,” says Lesesne. 

5. So what’s on the menu?

That question is to be determined. “Whoever we pick, it has to be a business that’s as interested in supporting the park as they are serving food,” says Lesesne. 

The Hampton Park Project timeline is still being developed, but Lesesne hopes to be serving residents snacks by this time next year at the latest.

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