The Lowcountry Lowline project, which aims to convert a stretch of abandoned railroad track downtown into a park, has secured $10 million in city and federal funding.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $7 million grant pre-construction efforts. But at a Tuesday press conference, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced the city allocated an additional $3 million to the park project.
The Lowline will be a linear park planned to run 1.7 miles along a former rail line through downtown from Mount Pleasant Street to Marion Square. The park, much of which is adjacent to Interstate 26, will include urban pathways between restaurants and hotels as well as open natural spaces for events and gatherings. The park’s design is focused on alleviating downtown stormwater issues and reconnecting neighborhoods along the Lowline.
The first steps for spending grant monies include community engagement and strategy, which nonprofit Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline said it has wanted to implement since the beginning of the project in 2017, plus engineering and permitting processes. Levels of arsenic in the ground soil require a National Environmental Protection Act review as well, said Tecklenburg.
In the 1960s I-26 and the Septima P. Clark Parkway displaced hundreds of families, Tecklenburg said. “It severed them, it disconnected them. And this is the most incredible opportunity that we have for this part of the city to reconnect those neighborhoods.”
The Lowline project, with the help of Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline, purchased the rail line property that the park will encompass, Tecklenburg said. And the City of Charleston renegotiated its lease with the S.C. Department of Transportation for the property along I-26 that will be part of the park space.
“It’s 40 acres of green space that we can return to the city of Charleston — that’s almost as big as Hampton Park,” Tecklenburg said.
Affordable housing construction goes hand in hand with the development of the Lowline, the mayor said.
“We’ve already used a portion of our purchase,” he said. “We’re going to build more affordable housing everywhere we can [near] the Lowline. Park space, recreation, affordable housing, reconnecting neighborhoods — this Lowline has so much opportunity for the future of our city.”
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