Dorchester County plans improvements for Oakbrook area

VIDEO: Dorchester County plans improvements for Oakbrook area

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Oakbrook area is in store for more redevelopment including drainage and pedestrian safety improvements.

It's an area in parts of Dochester County and Summerville near Dorchester and Trolley Roads.

Rebecca Vance is the Deputy Administrator for Dorchester County.

“Going across Dorchester Road is a little like playing Frogger because it’s not pedestrian friendly, we widened everything and made it more auto oriented but hopefully we can come back in and make it easier for people to ride their bikes and walk to some of the assets that we have there,” she said.

Last week, Dorchester County Council passed the first reading of an ordinance created to establish the Oakbrook Redevelopment Project area to make public improvements that would also attract private growth.

The county is planning to establish a tax increment financing district, known has TIF, to primarily fund the improvements. That means the county will use increased revenue from future property taxes from people who live in the Oakbrook area to pay for public infrastructure projects.

The county says it is not raising taxes.

This is the first time Dorchester County and the Town of Summerville is using a TIF district to generate funds.

Vance says one of the first projects that will be underway next year is the renovation of the Charleston Battery Soccer Club fields. They are located on Walden Ridge Road in Summerville which is near Trolley Road.

It’s formally known as the Summerville Soccer Club. It’s an area that typically floods.

"Anybody that has kids that has played out there knows that if we get a good rain their games are cancelled for week," Vance said.

The county is planning to improve drainage, lighting parking and safety by adding a fence around all the fields. They also plan to put in new grass and turf fields.

The fields will be available for high schools and tournaments. They can also be used to play football.

In addition to these improvements, the Oakbrook area is expected to get sidewalks, connected walking trails and become more biker friendly.

The county is also considering helping the school district add classroom space to Oakbrook Elementary and Middle Schools on Old Fort Drive.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation is working on a project now to extend side walks along Old Fort Drive.

Vance says the county is also looking to make people more aware of natural areas in this part of town.

“I don’t know that most people even realize that when you’re riding on Dorchester Road in five lanes of traffic, the Ashley River is one block over,” Vance said. "We want to make sure people realize that’s there.

There will also be other drainage and lighting upgrades.

Councilman Jay Byars represents District 7.

“This area is over 40 years old with the development and it’s just time to do some upgrades,” Byars said. “This is an area that people really do care about but it’s become run down over the last 20 years.”

All the improvements are expected to cost about $35 million. Vance says they are looking to pay for about $25 million with TIF funds and pay for the remainder with grants or other town, county or school funds.

“We are hoping by us investing in the area it will spur some private investment also," Vance said.

The ordinance for the redevelopment area must have two more readings approved by Dorchester County Council.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that Oakbrook is really hot right now, it’s never been hotter, real estate is really great and there’s a lot of people utilizing this area,” Byars said.

There will be a public hearing and presentation of plans at a council meeting on November 4 where the public can learn more and comment.

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