A plan approved by a North Charleston City Council committee Thursday would clear the way for Fresh Future Farm and Metanoia to buy properties from the city separately rather than having the urban farm nonprofit negotiate an agreement with the community development group.
Under a recommendation considered by the North Charleston City Council Finance Committee Thursday evening, the single property that includes the former Chicora Elementary School and Fresh Future Farm would be subdivided, removing the farm property from the larger parcel.
The school property would be sold to Metanoia for $205,000. With Thursday’s approval, the plan will still need to pass two readings by city council next week.
The move comes as the city is working through insurance claims on the historic Chicora Elementary School, which Metanoia planned to buy before it caught fire in early 2020. The group is planning a massive renovation of the property to include a charter school, performance space, creative spaces and after-school program areas.
The sale was slated to go through in the first half of last year, but fallout from the fire has slowed the process.
Fresh Future Farm raised about $72,500 on Kickstarter in 2019 to purchase the Success Street property where it operates a community farm and grocery store.
An initial plan called for Metanoia to acquire the entire property and have its board strike a deal with Fresh Future Farm for its portion. But negotiations halted over provisions that would have restricted Fresh Future Farm’s use of the land and given Metanoia the first right of refusal if the farm decided to sell.
Terms of the proposed transaction between North Charleston and Metanoia appear to include a 25-year restrictive covenant on the school property, stipulating that it “shall be used only in keeping with the Project Vision” and related uses.
To move the school project forward, Metanoia CEO Bill Stanfield said the group requested the city resolve matters with Fresh Future Farm directly.
As of early Wednesday, Fresh Future Farm co-founder Germaine Jenkins said she had not heard about the proposal before council, but planned to huddle with board members.
Adam MacConnell, a project manager for the city of North Charleston, told the City Paper, for now, the focus right now is on Metanoia.
“After we get the school property closed and insurance issues settled, we will begin discussions with FFF,” he said in an email Wednesday.
North Charleston Councilman Ron Brinson, the committee chairman, applauded both groups for their work and expected officials would be ready to work with Jenkins when the time comes.
“I think that the city is going to help in any practical way,” he said.
The lockdown affected both groups’ abilities to function normally within the Chicora Cherokee community, but each continues to plan events and programming.
For now, as Metanoia works through insurance specifics, Stanfield said, “It is good to be having some forward movement toward eventually having this space renovated to support educational and arts opportunities within the neighborhood we serve.”
Jenkins said Fresh Future Farm kicks off a $3-dinner series this week and is planning for its annual South Carolina Black Farmers Conference next month, which will be adjusted into a drive-in format because of the pandemic.