Lowcountry Lowline facts for kids
The Lowcountry Lowline is a planned linear park in Charleston, South Carolina to be located on 1.7 miles of old railroad roadbed. It will run from Mt. Pleasant Street to Courtland Street. Construction of certain sections of the park will begin in early 2021.
History and development
Completed in the early-1830s, the line was originally part of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. The railroad operated the first regular trains pulled by steam locomotives in the United States. During the American Civil War, the successor company (South Carolina Rail Road) maintained the supply line into the city’s downtown. Some contextually important railroad and warehouse buildings still exist.
In 2015, the Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern to purchase 1.7 miles of land along the ridge of Charleston's peninsula within two years. The former railroad right-of-way had existed in Charleston since the 1820s but hadn't been used for over a decade. In 2017, Norfolk Southern and the city of Charleston met the terms of the agreement at a price of $4.6 million which was significantly below previous cost estimates. The city also purchased two additional properties adjacent to the former railroad line from Norfolk Southern which may be used for affordable housing units. In May 2018, work began to remove the land's abandoned rails and switches. Additionally, the results from environmental testing in the area will be released in 2020.
When completed, the Lowcountry Lowline will be downtown Charleston's second largest park. It will consist of pedestrian and bicycle paths along the peninsula's ridge. It will also be a flood management project that will have a "wetland park" to be a reservoir for storm water. The project is often compared to the New York City High Line or Atlanta's fledgling BeltLine.
The Lowline is expected to cost $30 million to complete. A study conducted in 2016 estimated that after twenty years of operation the Lowline will have an estimated economic impact in Charleston of $4.8 billion. The planned pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River connecting the West Ashley Greenway to downtown Charleston may eventually connect with the Lowline. Community feedback was sought by the Friends of the Lowcountry in February 2020 after the release of the park's conceptual study. In early 2021, construction and preliminary funding of the park will begin. It is expected that the park will be constructed over the next decade in phases.
Features of the park
The city of Charleston has long had issues with flooding and the Lowline is believed to be capable of alleviating storm runoff in some areas of the city. One park proposed for the Lowline is the Newmarket Park which would be a "storm water wetland" that would create an outlet for the nearby New Market Creek. Additionally, the proposed Poinsette Park would be a large, open space capable of holding water. The conceptual study for the Lowline states that capturing and treating "all runoff created by the elevated roadways" is a priority of the project. Plants on the Lowline will be native to the area and a key component of the park's water management function.
Charleston has also had issues with cyclist safety. In Charleston's first ever bicycle infrastructure study, the Lowline was the central component on the plan for a "robust urban bikeway system" on the peninsula. The bikeway down the Lowline will have two 6-foot wide lanes at the minimum, separated by a median and with designated crossings. Additionally, the Lowcountry Rapid Transit System could possibly have a transit hub near the Lowline on Mt. Pleasant Street and the city is looking to build affordable housing units on F and H streets.
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