HISTORY - The nonprofit Friends of the Lowline (“Friends”) was formed eight years ago to buy the unused Norfolk-Southern Rail line on the Charleston peninsula. The Friends group hoped to transform the mostly overlooked central corridor into a constructive green space for the city.
Negotiations stretched over five years. But at the end of 2017, the Friends’ efforts succeeded and the Lowline became the property of the City of Charleston.
COMMUNITY-CENTERED DESIGN - With ownership secure, the Friends and the city signed an agreement on how, as a public/private partnership, they would work with the community to develop a design for the Lowline. (Funding methods must also be devised.)
The partnership’s first objective was to draft a framework for the community conversation. The basis of the community discussion framework is the conceptual study now being released. It covers the diverse opportunities presented by the Lowline. Those who drafted this study hope that it helps homeowners, renters, businesses, developers and city officials focus jointly on a final vision.
As of today, the Lowline covers territory at least double the amount of land bought from the railroad: it now comprises land under and around I-26 covered by a lease with The South Carolina Department of Transportation. As a result the Lowline is now a linear north/south corridor that expands east and west to become a more expansive green connectivity system.
Uniquely Charleston, the Lowline will bring the city together. But specifically it:
..allows people to move about the city freely and safely on foot and by bicycle, with better connections to mass transit, all resulting in reduced car traffic.
..provides downtown green park land with links to more parks and open spaces beyond
..affords more recreation options both active and passive.
..sets up new and significant storm water management possibilities.
..necessitates remediation of lingering environmental contamination
..yields multiple new venues for performances, cultural events, music and art.
..creates new opportunities for social interaction and for reconnecting and reinvigorating neighborhoods
..makes new opportunities for business and ways to help existing businesses grow.
..links connections to multiple schools, to affordable housing, community resources such as 180 Place, American College of the Building Arts, Green Heart Urban Farm at the William Enston Homes, Redux and more.
..prompts exploration of city-sponsored ways to stabilize neighborhoods by providing targeted tax breaks and incentives