Charleston business leaders share plans to boost King Street

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Downtown Association is moving forward with plans it hopes will grow business along King Street while improving the shopping experience in the historic district.

This year, Charleston City Council voted to create a business improvement district and on Tuesday, city council will meet with the downtown association for a workshop.

Explore Charleston Vice President for Media and Innovation Doug Warner says the goal is to create a cohesive, safe and pleasant place to shop.

“What this does is it create a district where the property owners have said we are willing for you to lay an additional fee on our building so that we can enhance service, and that’s security, cleanliness, beautification, marketing, programming and more standardization,” Warner says.

He compared the district to a mall, where owners are a part of a community where they pay a bit more to benefit from regulations and perks to keep the common areas clean and safe.

City officials say there are 467 units in the district from Meeting Street to Line Street, and 55% of owners signed statements of support.

Roy Neil, who owns El Jefe Texican Cantina, is one of those supporters who sees this as an opportunity to better the area.

“We want to do everything we can to make it better. You know tax dollars go to supplement all the services that happen but they get stretched between Daniel Island and West Ashely and Downtown Charleston and other places,” Neal says.

Neal is part of the board for the King Street Alliance, a supplemental group of landowners who are working with the city on ways to help enhance the King Street experience.

“We might need help with security, we might need help with better lighting, we might need help with promotions for holiday things, to bring merchants more business. There are all kinds of things in this partnership that I think we can work out,” Neal says.

But not all owners think the district is a good idea. Some say they are already paying high hospitality taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.

Harris Cohen owns King Street Cookies. He has a location on King Street and in Mount Pleasant. He says he prefers his Mount Pleasant shop, and often people tell him they go there instead of the one on King Street.

Cohen also says he already pays high rent, a sales and hospitality tax and property tax.

“And that money is not being used to make the place safe and to make the place clean where people feel at home and safe,” Cohen says. “Why are they reaching into my pocket for even more money?”

Cohen says he does want to see work to remove graffiti, clean up trash, and help the homeless but that should be happening already. He also wants more police presence specifically on foot patrolling the area.

“Don’t come to me now asking for more money when you’re not using the money that we’re paying in taxes right now to make the place safe and we have seen the decline in the last seven years,” Cohen says.

Warner says 241 of the 647 properties will pay less than $500 in additional fees per year under the district. Funding for the district will start in the first quarter of 2023, and owners will pay a tax based on what their property is worth. Tuesday night’s meeting will work through some remaining details in the plan.

“The bid has already been voted and approved. This is really setting up the working relationship between the CDA, which will be the non-profit running the bid with the City of Charleston,” Warner says.

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