A North Charleston nonprofit has plans to revitalize one the city’s most historic schools, but it needs a little more time to secure funding.
City Council’s Finance Committee unanimously voted to give Metanoia a one-year extension on its lease/purchase option as the nonprofit raises funds to rehabilitate the old Chicora Elementary School on Success Street.
The vote, expected to receive final approval when it goes before council Thursday, gives the nonprofit more time as it works to turn the dilapidated, century-old structure into a hub for childhood education and development.
In 2017, the city gave Metanoia site control over the property with an 18-month deadline to secure financing for the redevelopment project. But the endeavor is more expensive than originally anticipated, mainly because of the significant rise in construction costs, said the Rev. Bill Stanfield, Metanoia CEO.
“We started this with a conservative construction estimate,” Stanfield said. “Everywhere you look, the construction costs are going up significantly.”
The nonprofit has already secured $17 million for the $20 million project. Funding has come from a variety of sources, including historic and new market tax credits. The rest will come from philanthropic donations, Stanfield said.
Metanoia’s revitalization plan for the building includes early childhood education classrooms for neighborhood children, a performing arts venue, artist spaces and offices for nonprofits.
Chicora-Cherokee residents, many who have fond memories of walking to class, are anxious for something to be done with historic structure that will serve as a key piece to revitalizing the neighborhood.
“They’re ready for some love to be put in that building,” said Rebecca Rushton, Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood president. “It needs to be a better community asset. Right now, it’s just taking space.”
Chicora-Cherokee was originally built as a workforce-housing development near the old Navy base. Early on the school itself was used as an equalization school for white students. It has sat vacant since a new school was built nearby in 2012.
City and community leaders said the rehabilitating the old building project will add to what is already happening in corridors like Reynolds Avenue where vacant businesses are receiving new life. City leaders have high hopes to see the commercial node return to its former glory and they feel revitalizing the old elementary school could help those efforts.
“Redevelopment of that whole Chicora Elementary footprint could really put it in high gear,” said Councilman Ron Brinson, who chairs the Finance Committee.