On Jan. 23, just before the national State of the Union Address, Mayor John Tecklenburg addressed the city of Charleston with the annual State of the City address. Tecklenburg talked about the many initiatives and programs that the city has enacted in the past year to improve infrastructure, public spaces and transportation. For next year, he prioritized flooding and drainage, infrastructure improvements and affordable housing issues. Tecklenburg praised the devotion and energy of city residents and the city’s resiliency in the face of two hurricanes and a snow storm.
For the next year, the city is working on flooding and drainage problems by investing two million dollars to improve the drainage and flooding system, such as find solutions for the Church Creek Drainage Basin, as well as increased the budget by 25 percent to build the Low Battery Sea Wall. The improvements to the flooding and drainage systems will come from existing money from hospitality and accommodation fees, which are usually paid for by tourists. The city will also hire its first full-time floodplain manager and a new Chief Resiliency Officer, Mark Wilbert, to help reduce flooding. They are particularly going to focus on flooding areas in West Ashley, John’s Island and James Island.
The city will also focus on improving infrastructure through investing two billion dollars on new and improved roads, new green spaces and parks and a new bus rapid system. The city will work to widen the Glenn McConnell Parkway, improve the Savannah Highway and Main Road on Johns Island. Tecklenburg praised the city’s bikeshare program, Holy Spokes, and the fact that the city is attempting to secure federal funding to build a bike and pedestrian bridge across the Ashley River. The city has also launched the Medical District Urban Greenway Initiative, which is an initiative to reclaim streets near hospitals and to transform them into park areas. The city is dedicating a TIF redevelopment fund that is expected to produce $60 million to revitalize West Ashley. The plan for West Ashley can be found online and is the “largest, most ambitious master plan for West Ashley revitalization in the history of our city.”
Tecklenburg also noted that affordable housing is a priority: “Almost 40 people a day are moving into our region to take advantage of the great life the Lowcountry has to offer. But with that boom has come a serious shortage of affordable and workforce housing.” The city has passed a $20 million affordable housing bond, which will help raise money for repairs of old housing. Additionally, the city will place workforce housing requirements for large developments and form a community land trust with the Historic Charleston Foundation.