Generate Economic Benefit
Today, the land yields zero dollars to the city. HR&A Advisors, a leading urban development consulting firm, estimates that once converted into a linear park, the Low Line could result in $4.8 billion total economic output, including $90 million of total additional tourism spending, to the Charleston economy.
That equals more than $657,534 a day, every day, for the next 20 years.
The design and construction of the Low Line would tap into funds that are targeted to the Downtown area, rather than diverting money away from Charleston’s other neighborhoods. Instead, the Low Line could rely on sources like the King Street Gateway TIF or BID fees as well as funding from philanthropies and federal or state grants. In addition, the Low Line will save the City money in other creative ways – by solving drainage problems with cost-effective solutions and by increasing access to businesses, creating an uptick in commerce.
Read the full Economic Impact Report from HR&A Advisors here.
Stimulate Local Business
The Low Line would further benefit our economy by supporting and stimulating local businesses like those in the King Street area between Romney and Poplar, which are either vacant or struggling. The increased bike and pedestrian traffic could help rejuvenate business districts by introducing a new customer base and boosting access. The Low Line can also support new startup businesses in the form of small kiosks or stands to further benefit our residents.
A Historic Charleston Foundation report acknowledges that projects like the Low Line result in a rising quality of life that leads to an escalation in the costs of home-ownership and renting. Downtown’s soaring property values and demand for real estate have already resulted in gentrification as Charleston residents struggle to afford their rising rents. The Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line understands the immediacy, scope and importance of addressing this issue, and we are committed to working with the City – and others – to maintain affordability and livability in the area.
One possible solution is to build new affordable housing, which could be constructed on the land we will own adjacent to the Low Line. It is ideally located to allow residents to walk or bike to jobs or to school. By increasing sustainable, affordable housing in the area, the Low Line would benefit Charleston residents across income brackets and neighborhoods. The late Jane Jacobs, author and champion of community-based approaches to city planning, wrote that, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."
We are committed to creating an organizational structure to include our residents in finding indelible solutions to the challenges our city currently faces. The issue of gentrification and affordable housing is complicated, and it requires a comprehensive, proactive approach.
Reconnect Neighborhoods & Increase City-Wide Accessibility
When the construction of I-26 began in 1964, it fractured the peninsula, breaking up neighborhoods and communities. The fault line created by I-26 runs parallel to the Low Line. Its construction would heal the wound that cut through the body of the peninsula, reconnecting neighborhoods and their residents. The park will serve as the backbone of a dynamic network that would connect the entire peninsula through unprecedented access and bridge both existing and future parks and recreational areas. Our residents will benefit from easy access to work and to school, and commuting between distinct neighborhoods will be easier and safer than ever before.
Plans are underway to link the peninsula from Mount Pleasant Street all the way to Marion Square. We are also working with SCDOT to join the Low Line with the Ravenel Bridge. And, in the future, a bike and pedestrian path will connect the Low Line to Hampton Park, Laurel Island, the new skate park, Magnolia, West Edge and MUSC. The area fractured by I-26 will be stitched back together, and the Peninsula will be connected from end to end.
Today, the Low Line path that borders many Charleston homes is fertile ground for illicit activity. The unlit, unmonitored land is often wrought with fires, crime and loiterers that make those who live near it uneasy and fearful. A longtime Charleston resident who lives on Simons Street – just steps away from the future Low Line – said he “looks forward to the park, because it will make his home a safer place.” The Low Line would light up this area, adding presence that was described by Jane Jacobs as “eyes on the street.” This idea echoes that of “safety in numbers” – the more people on the streets, the safer they become. Rather than looking outside their homes to see fires burning or people loitering, residents near the Low Line would see families enjoying evening strolls, young adults biking to work and beautiful scenery.
Relieve Traffic & Promote Health
We all know that commuting has become a serious challenge in our city, exacerbated by the influx of residents and of tourists, and magnified each time it rains. The Post and Courier reported that Lowcountry commuters spent an average of 41 hours delayed in traffic last year. The Low Line would help relieve the city’s traffic by providing a safe, speedy option for residents who prefer biking or walking. A recent survey noted that 8 out of 10 residents would use the Low Line primarily as a means of heart-healthy transportation.
"Capitalize on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and wellbeing."
– Project for Public Spaces
The Low Line also has the potential to inspire our residents and improve their quality of life. The Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line will work in tandem with the cultural and creative arts community to infuse the park with creative spirit, forging a haven that inspires.