Mayor compares plans for old Navy hospital to NY's Central Park

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- North Charleston officials held a press conference Friday morning to announce plans for the future of the newly-purchased naval hospital.

The City of North Charleston won a bid for the property in October. It paid $2 million for the 10-story, 368,000 square foot hospital on nearly 23 acres of land on Rivers Avenue.

The building has remained idle for the past two years, with only a small security staff inside.

Mayor Keith Summey has said in the past that the eventual plan could involve building a corridor of shops around the hospital to bring business back to that part of town. He also said remodeling the building would be more cost effective than tearing it down.

Diane Lathen was born and raised in North Charleston. In her lifetime, she said she has seen{}the neighborhood change a lot.

"When I was growing up it was safer. You could go somewhere without any problems. But now the kids don't have anything to do. So they do other things," she said.

The city announced plans to sell{}40 acres of land to Chicora Gardens Holdings, LLC for about $9 million Friday. The plans included a grocery store, office building, bank, restaurants, medical and dental services, pharmacy, library and a continuing care retirement community with senior apartments, assisted living and hospice services.

The land includes{}Shipwatch Square.

"We saw the opportunity when the naval hospital came on board to create something that would draw people to the southern end of the city," Mayor Keith Summey said.

Mayor Summey{}also called the plans{}a "great opportunity for us to enhance quality of life." He compared the prospective North Charleston public park to Central Park in New York. The park will take up about 20 acres, or one-half of the purchased land.

Summey said he prioritized bringing a grocery store to the area.

"This area within a mile radius at one time had seven grocery stores. Now they have none," he said.

Residents said the distance needed to travel to get to a grocery store is prohibitive.

"If we need something we have to run to Dorchester Road or something like that. I think it'll be more convenient for us and the neighborhood cause a lot of people live here. Without transportation, it's easier for them to come here," Lathen said.

Summey also said the community space will draw people to the area. He said the city wants to start programs with local schools in the educational and public garden areas. Decorative touches will{}include European-replica statues.

According to{}a statement from the city, Chicora Gardens Holdings LLC engaged Davis and Floyd for the engineering contract.