Berkeley Co. accepts $500K grant for potential redevelopment in St. Stephen

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 4:06 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 8:36 PM EDT
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ST. STEPHEN, S.C. (WCSC) - Berkeley County says a new grant aims to possibly start redeveloping parts of St. Stephen, a rural town about 15 miles north of Moncks Corner.

Berkeley County Council voted to accept a $500,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.

“It could be something like asbestos or lead-based paint, something in the soil,” Economic Development Director Kristen Lanier said. “Something that might be a risk for redevelopment, so this grant is going to allow us to do an assessment to identify any potential risks for redevelopment.”

The grant targets two primary sites, the old St. Stephen High School, which closed in 1996, and an 85-acre area that used to be a lumber mill just off Highway 52, which closed around 1970. Up to 15 sites around the area could be looked at for revitalization as part of the grant.

“All I want is for something good to happen in St. Stephen, you know, because it seems like everything that comes to St. Stephen stays for a little while, and then, it’s gone,” St. Stephen resident Ann Judge said.

St. Stephen Mayor John Rivers said the grant will allow the town to start redeveloping and bring economic growth to the area. The county said the town could turn the old high school into a community center while the old lumber mill would be repurposed for some type of industrial use.

“The goal there, again with community input, would be that we start putting together a plan of revitalization for both those sites and others,” Lanier said.

Lanier also said they want to see if there is anything in these sites that might prevent that development.

However, some said they do not want to repurpose the old high school and keep it the way it is.

“My children came to school here too, so and I can remember all of my old high school teachers. I love it,” St. Stephen resident Julie Jenkins said.

The county said the money will be available starting Oct. 1 and will go on for the next four years. They also said the grant is the first step in a long-term process.

“This is that motion,” Lanier said. “This is that start of something, so we’re excited to see some movement in that area and to see what we can do and how we can leverage this.”

County officials said after those four years, they will have a plan developed for the sites.

The county will hold public meetings as part of the grant, but they have not announced when the meetings will be held.

Below is the full statement from St. Stephen Mayor John Rivers:

The town of St. Stephen is grateful that the EPA selected us to receive one of the 2022 Brownfield Program Grants for $500,000. We were the only municipality in Berkeley County to receive this. In countless other communities around the United States the EPA’s Brownfield program has had a proven track record of leveraging private sector investment, creating jobs and protecting the environment. St. Stephen will use this Brownfield Grant to spur our town with redevelopment and cleanup projects and bring sustained economic growth. We are thankful for the support of the Berkeley County Economic Development Office and their ability to work with myself, town council, and the town’s administration to write the grant proposal. We are ready to collaborate with the various committees that will be comprised of St. Stephen residents and business owners to help us continue to grow and revitalize our town. Receiving this prestigious award is a fantastic achievement for the Town of St. Stephen and I give credit to all involved in the initiative. We have been waiting for the results of the EPA Brownfield Grant Application for quite some time. “It has been well worth the wait.” This is the first of many blessings in store for our great town.

For more information about the Brownfields Assessment Grant, click here.