The Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC ) Oct. 21 signed an agreement with Palmetto Railways that allocates $3 million for the construction of a new community center to replace the old Sterrett Hall at the former Charleston Naval Base.
Since the late 1990s closure of the old naval base, Sterrett Hall served as a community center for the adjacent neighborhoods of Chicora/Cherokee and Union Heights in North Charleston.
Redevelopment of the old base to serve as a new S.C. State Port Authority facility required Sterrett Hall’s demolition.
Palmetto Railways will use the site for its new intermodal railways hub facility.
LAMC President Omar Muhammad said the agreement with Palmetto Railways comes after a two-year negotiation process in which Palmetto Railways pledges to invest $3 million for construction of a new community center. LAMC also will invest $500,000 toward the project. The collaboration includes a partnership with the City of North Charleston, the Union Heights and Chicora/Cherokee communities and the nonprofit Metanoia organization. The new facility will have a gym, swimming pool, fitness/wellness center and indoor/outdoor fitness stations.
Additionally, Metanoia will receive $470,000 from Palmetto Railways for an affordable housing initiative. Approximately $300,000 more will be allocated for educational, environmental and economic development initiatives. The funding appropriations will be split 70/30 between the Chicora/Cherokee and Union Heights communities.
Muhammad said LAMC in June regained control of approximately $3 million left over from a $4 million mitigation settlement it received from the SPA about 10 years ago. LAMC used about $1 million of its original settlement funding for several projects that included purchasing a building that serves as its offices, educational scholarships and a failed affordable housing initiative in the Liberty Hill community. The recent release of LAMC’s remaining funds will enable the organization to pursue job training, workforce development, revolving business loans and continuing environmental programs, Muhammad said.
Palmetto Railways will release its allocations in installments, but Muhammad said the community center’s construction should be completed on line with completion of the new SPA facility in 2019. Funding to begin community initiatives should be received in the next few months as final details of the agreement are worked out, he said. Input through public hearings will be conducted, he said.
Responding to concerns about the decade-long wait for tangible results from the $4 million SPA mitigation award to LAMC, Muhammad said the process continually was stalled by forces working against the organization of predominantly black communities. With its funding now again under LAMC’s control more progress should become evident. He suggests those seeking information about LAMC’s plans and programs go to its website at lamcnc.org.
Muhammad said it’s important for the public to know that the members of LAMC always have been working in the community’s behalf and that the money allocated as mitigation in 1997 still is there.