King Street business’ tax dollars being put to work

Thousands of dollars will go toward the beautification of King Street, and people could be seeing changes as soon as next week.
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 3:24 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2023 at 8:13 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Thousands of dollars will go toward the beautification of King Street, and people could be seeing changes as soon as next week.

Businesses’ tax dollars are being put to work on King Street. Hundreds of thousands in fact, for street cleaning and hospitality services.

The Charleston Downtown Alliance and its partners are working to set up a budget for the newly implemented King Street Business Improvement District. The new district stretches from Line Street to Broad Street. Every business on King Street between Line and Broad Streets is now paying an additional tax to fund extra work on the street.

Jane Jenkins is the Interim Director of the Charleston Downtown Alliance. She explains that the collected taxes are expected to be about $730,000 the first year. They make up two-thirds of the alliance’s budget for work on King Street. The portion will go toward city investment.

Of the $730,000, more than half has been invested in contracting a street services company and creating an ambassador program.

Block by Block is a street services company that works in more than 100 downtown areas across the country. Their services include cleaning, landscaping, outreach and hospitality.

The ambassadors from Block by Block will be uniformed people walking the streets assessing what needs to be done to keep King Street running smoothly. They will remove graffiti and clean up trash as needed, since King Street is a high traffic area. The uniformed ambassadors will connect the homeless to city resources. They will also be able to greet and direct visitors walking the streets. Jenkins says they will do a variety of jobs at a variety of times.

“They started training this week. So hopefully we will have them out on the street, if not late next week, the week of April 17. They will be in what we call a temporary uniform because we’re still working on our branding to get it launched but they should see people out on the street cleaning and sometimes they’re not going to see them because we’re going to do a lot of power washing,” Jenkins says.

Some of the money will be budgeted to add more landscaping to the Calhoun and King Street intersection, as well as economic impact studies on King Street. A small portion of the taxes would fund membership to downtown associations that connect across the country that share resources and materials on their own improvement plans.

The Charleston Hospitality Group has a few businesses on King Street. Chief Operating Officer Eric Parker recently stepped into the role and formerly worked in hospitality in Palm Beach Florida.

“Anything that you do to improve, to attract tourism, here. Beautification of the city, worked well in my prior life in Florida in Palm Beach County. So here in Charleston, I think, following that model, I think it’s good for businesses, as long as everybody’s in line, knowing where the money is spent. And that somebody’s following up that it’s done,” Parker says.

Parker says he enjoys it when large events, like the Cooper River Bridge Run, bring a lot of traffic to the area, and being prepared for that is important. He hopes the services and tax money will help on big weekends and encourage more events.

“I think shutting down the streets is a good idea. Not only that for just safety in general, for the tourism, you know, for people to be able to walk the streets really is nice. You know, you got the taxis a little taxis and Ubers and things running around to get people down here. So anything we can do, any events, any way we can get people to come you know, bring people into Charleston into this area is very helpful,” Parker says.

Jenkins says Block by Block has been signed to a one-year contract, and their ambassadors will work throughout King Street assessing where the needs are and adjusting as time goes on.

“The great thing about block by block is they provide us with really good data about what kind of services they’re providing and what the results of those services are. So, the board for the Charleston downtown alliance will be able to evaluate based on those numbers, kind of where we go from here,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins says the downtown alliance is actively working on a website and branding that will explain the Block by Block partnership and offer more information to owners and visitors soon. While there isn’t a timeline for the website launch, she says people can expect to see the ambassadors in the street this month.