ESTATE


Deal for school to benefit city
2009/02/10, 1:04 pm
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Deal for school to benefit city

By David Slade
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In an unusual arrangement aimed at putting a new school on Charleston’s upper peninsula, the city is poised to buy land on Meeting Street for $4.75 million and then lease it at essentially no charge to Meeting Street Academy.

Brad Nettles
The Post and Courier

The city of Charleston is considering buying this piece of property bounded by Conroy, Meeting, Cool Blow and Nassau streets from South Carolina Electric & Gas for $4.75 million and to then sublease it to Meeting Street Academy.

Under the deal, according to city officials, Meeting Street Academy would build a roughly $9 million school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students on the 2.4-acre site.

The plan calls for a gymnasium and a park that would be available to area residents.

City Council will consider the deal at a meeting tonight, following a unanimous recommendation by council’s Real Estate Committee on Monday.

Meeting Street Academy is a nonprofit institution that opened last summer and currently serves about 40 preschoolers in a former church at 1156 King St.

Though private, the school charges a nominal dollar-a-day tuition and is funded by a foundation created by Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group, city officials said.

“It’s absolutely remarkable,” Mayor Joe Riley said. “This is another center of excellence in education.”

Although the school exists only as a start-up preschool today, Riley and other city officials were effusive in their praise for the institution, which requires parents to sign contracts agreeing to help their children with homework and spend time volunteering in the school, among other things.

More info
Meeting Street Academy’s web site

The school’s Web site states that it’s mission is “to establish and maintain a rich and dynamic learning environment for children from families who care deeply about their children’s education but cannot afford traditional private schools.”

The land the city plans to buy is a large vacant lot on the east side of Meeting Street between Cool Blow and Conroy streets, currently owned by South Carolina Electric & Gas.

The location is in the heart of a fast-changing section of Charleston. Across Meeting Street is a former mattress factory where the South Carolina Research Authority and the city plan to invest up to $5 million to create research and laboratory space for biomedical start-up companies.

On the south side of the property, there’s a new condominium development on Cool Blow Street. On the north side, there’s public housing.

The Post and Courier

The proposed deal with SCE&G calls for the city to agree to buy the land for $4.75 million, but the city would not have to pay for nearly five years. Riley said the ultimate cash cost could be much lower because the city hopes to arrange land deals with the utility and to find sites in Charleston for needed sub-stations.

If the sale agreement is signed, the city would lease the land to Meeting Street Academy for 50 years, with options to renew. For this, the school would be charged a total of $10.

Riley said he thinks the school will be a national model, but he also said there’s value to the city and its residents in the gym and park area the school would build, which would be available for city recreation programs and community use. He said it would have cost the city about $4 million to create such facilities.

“I know that the school is a great idea,” said Councilman Jimmy Gallant, who represents that section of Charleston. “I’m totally for it.”

Council members Gary White and Yvonne Evans also voted to recommend the deal.

School officials did not attend the meeting and could not be reached at the school after hours Monday evening.

Sherman Financial Group, the school’s backer, is a company that buys distressed debt.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com.

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