Charleston City Council heard public comments from local business owners, residents and city leaders on a proposed Business Improvement District (BID) slated to impact King Street from Broad to Line streets, with room for expansion in either direction, in partnership with the Charleston Downtown Alliance.
The district seeks to improve the on-street experience for pedestrians and business owners, with impacts ranging from beautification to adding services for tourists and residents. Those who own businesses in the BID would have more say in how to use funds specifically. The proposed area includes 545 distinct parcels, just over 75 acres of land.
It isn’t a new concept, according to Robert Summerfield, the director of planning, preservation and sustainability for the City of Charleston. It was first discussed as a part of a 1977 revitalization plan, brought up again in the 1999 Downtown Plan, expanded upon in Century V Plan in 2011 and 2016. More recently, the city’s adopted comprehensive plan calls for adopting the proposed improvement district.
“As goes King Street, so goes Charleston in terms of our economy,” said Councilman Mike Seekings. “For those who have undertaken during the toughest time King Street has seen to get this initiative going, good for you.”
“As you all conceive of this BID and think about how you’re going to augment the things we do here in the city to make King Street clean, safe and beautiful … this is economic development … if y’all are successful … we will continue to be successful,” he said.
The project has been pushed by business owners who seem to support the project overall, but not everyone is on board. During the public hearing, many spoke in favor of the proposal, thanking city council for its efforts. Others spoke of concerns regarding traffic and crime in the area which some said could be exacerbated by beautification efforts that would involve removing some signage along the corridor.
Other concerns surround the idea of extending the corridor, which would risk running into residential areas.
“I live on King Street … Are the homeowners going to be impacted by this, too?” Councilman Robert Mitchell cautioned. “We have a lot of businesses growing there now, I just wanted to make sure it’s not going to be pushing people out of the community, out of the city itself. We have to be very careful about doing that.”
The project is expected to cost around $11 million over a 10-year period. Parcels in the affected area would be billed no more than $0.0113 per dollar of assessed value annually over that period to offset costs. This includes some upper-floor residences above streetfront business. Other sources of income include fundraising efforts, and provided funds from The Charleston Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit made up of King Street business owners.