[image-1] The abandoned railroad running down the upper peninsula will be removed starting today, signaling the first steps in the construction of the proposed “Lowcountry Lowline” public park.

The removal work will be performed by contractors for Norfolk-Southern, the Virginia-based transportation company that sold the mile-and-a-half of railroad to the City of Charleston and the nonprofit Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline for $4.6 million in December.

Work is set to begin near the northern section of the railroad at Mt. Pleasant Street. An unspecified amount of rails, switches, and lights will be preserved and incorporated into the final design of the linear park, according to the nonprofit.

The railroad runs all the way down to Courtland Avenue.

In a statement, Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline board president Windslow Hastie said that the tracks and ties will all have to be removed for environmental reasons, but assured that certain elements, such as signage and a few rails, will be preserved.

“The removal of the rail and ties from the Lowline right of way marks an important milestone in the linear park’s development,” said Hastie, who is also the president of the Historic Charleston Foundation. “We have been working closely with Norfolk-Southern and the city to ensure that the track removal process respects the history and significance of this historic rail corridor.”
[image-2]If the project looks at all familiar, that’s because you’ve likely seen similar ideas elsewhere. New York City’s Highline, which runs through the upscale Chelsea neighborhood, opened in June 2009 on tracks used by the former New York Central Railroad. Along with a slew of tourists looking for cute photo opps, the project also brought a surge in rent prices and development.

In Atlanta, a similar project called the BeltLine is currently undergoing development in stages.

Charleston City Council unanimously approved funding for the Lowline project in October, and the city and the nonprofit split the bill for the project back in December. Mayor John Tecklenburg praised the purchase, boasting that the park will be “a great asset for our city,” citing opportunities for safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic and “alternatives for drainage and flooding improvements.”

The nonprofit and the city have yet to draft an operating agreement defining their respective roles in operating the public park. The December purchase put ownership of the land fully in the hands of the city, according to a statement released by the nonprofit at the time.

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