There are a lot of mattress companies in South Carolina that claim to have the perfect mattress for everyone. At Sleep King, we believe that every person is different and has different needs when it comes to their mattress. That's why our mattress store in James Island, SC, has a wide variety of beds and brands to choose from. That way, you can find the right mattress for your body and get the very best sleep quality possible.
As a family-owned and operated mattress store with more than 40 years of experience in the sleep industry, we know a thing or two about comfortable mattresses. James Island residents choose Sleep King because we provide our customers with a personalized shopping experience. When you walk through our showroom doors, we want you to feel comfortable - both on our mattresses and with our store associates. At Sleep King, you won't ever have to worry about pushy salespeople and limited selection. Instead, you will discover that we encourage you to take your time as you search for your next bed. Sleep is incredibly important, and by proxy, finding the right mattress for your body type is too.
When you visit our showroom in James Island, know that we are a full-service store with mattress experts ready to help. From questions about mattresses and their warranties to financing and mattress delivery, there's no question we haven't heard before.
We carry some of the most popular brands in America, and unlike other mattress stores in James Island, offer them at the lowest prices around, guaranteed. There's a reason why we were voted your #1 mattress store in the Lowcountry - because we truly care about our customers and their quality of sleep!
Looking for discounts? Need to buy your mattress on a strict budget? We've got you covered at our new mattress clearance center in James Island, where we have more than 50 models on display at 50-80% off retail value. Don't forget to ask us about our flexible financing options, where no credit is needed to make a purchase. Paying cash? We'll knock 5% off your bill!
As if that weren't enough reason to visit, remember that we provide free delivery, setup, and removal of your old mattress for FREE when you make a purchase at Sleep king.
Our business model is simple - give customers quality beds from national brands at amazing prices, coupled with unmatched customer service. We know that your sleep is essential but also understand that normal folks aren't made of money. You need a solution that isn't going to break the bank, which is why we offer up to 75% off our products.
When we say we have a bed for every budget, we're serious.
A few of our mix and match deals include:
|Twin Mattress Sets Beginning||at $169.00|
|Full Mattress Sets Beginning||at $199.00|
|Queen Mattress Sets Beginning||at $229.00|
|King Mattress Sets Beginning||at $449.00|
Of course, a mattress would be incomplete without a headboard, footboard, and rails. For queen mattresses, those items combined are only $199. At our mattress store, we pledge to beat any competitor's price on similar product specs - guaranteed! Here are just a few of the benefits of shopping at Mattress King
At Sleep King, we carry the largest selection of high-quality national brand mattresses in James Island.
Often considered the best mattress brand in the world, innovation sets MLILY mattresses apart from others. Our customers love MLILY mattresses because they are expertly built through decades of research and rigorous testing. The folks at MLILY are committed to precision, meaning every detail of product detail they push is geared towards the ultimate satisfaction and comfort.
Restonic Mattresses: Restonic line of mattresses are multi-layered beds with cooling foam technology that adds resilience, support, and temperature control. The result is a cool, comfy sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to attack the day.
Every mattress in the Comfort Sleep lineup has a great combo of support and comfort, making for a restful night's sleep. With heavy-gauge coils and high-performance materials, these mattresses are durable and built to last. Be sure to try one of these mattresses out in our showroom - our customers love the pocketed coils and minimal motion transfer.
The Golden brand is lesser known than some, like Tempurpedic. Still, it is a quality product with many foam and non-foam options that we think you'll love. Choose from standard memory foam, hybrid, and innerspring options while visiting our showroom in James Island.
There's much more to choosing a good bed than how you think it will look in your bedroom. There's plenty to think about, from innerspring options to memory foam and even hybrid mattresses. At Sleep King, our priority is our customers. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We want to do right by you, which why we want to be sure you find the perfect bed when you visit our mattress store in James Island, SC. To help you get started, here are a few tips on choosing the best bed for your sleep needs.
This tip might seem like a no-brainer to some, but it's important that you visit a showroom so that you can lay on different beds to get a feel for what you like. At Mattress King, you will have the chance to explore different styles, designs, and shapes, and mattress materials. Finding a bed online at a price you can afford is great, but you should lie on the bed first, not just look at it on a screen.
Here's a surprising fact: just because a mattress costs more money, it doesn't mean it's going to be a better bed. Sure, more expensive beds might have newer technologies and materials, but not everyone has the budget to walk into a mattress store in James Island and spend $3,000. Figure out what price range you're comfortable paying and look at the best options for your bottom line.
Before you swing by our showroom and start trying out beds, it might be a good idea to measure the space where your new mattress will go. If your bedroom is on the small side, a king-sized bed might be too big. Similarly, a small bed in a huge room might make for strange aesthetics. Aim for a reasonable amount of room around your bed - enough where you can walk around comfortably. As mentioned above, get specific measurements of the area you plan to use. That way, you have peace of mind knowing your new mattress will fit in your bedroom.
This tip often comes down to personal preference. It will take a little bit of trial and error to figure out which material works best for your back - innerspring, memory foam, or latex. While your friend's and family's opinions matter, keep in mind that their mattress choice was subjective. What works for them won't necessarily work for you.
Also called coil mattresses, innerspring beds are probably the most well-known on this short list. Innerspring mattresses are often more affordable than their latex and memory foam counterparts. These beds are ideal for people who want a lot of support and a cooler night's sleep.
This material is known for its great cooling properties and overall comfort. With latex, there are no strange off-gassing odors like you sometimes get with memory foam. Latex mattresses are ideal for people who want a responsive, bouncy feel and may have problems sleeping hot.
First developed by NASA in the 70s, memory foam is probably the most popular material in the modern mattress market. Memory foam conforms to every inch of your body, giving you maximum comfort and support. Memory foam is also know for its anti-motion properties. Memory foam can be a great choice if you tend to toss and turn at night and sleep with a partner who wakes up when you do. Memory foam mattresses are ideal for people who need pressure relief, good support, and refreshing comfort.
If you have a bad back, it's crucial that you find a mattress with proper support. Slat and spring beds often offer plenty of support, but latex and memory foam options have come a long way. If you want memory foam or latex but find the support to be subpar, consider an adjustable base instead of a normal platform. That way, you can always sleep in a comfortable position that benefits your back.
You read that right! Sleep King is the first choice for quality beds in James Island, but we also have a huge selection of furniture for your home. If you're looking for a one-stop-shop for mattresses and furniture alike, you have come to the right place. If you're shopping for a new mattress at the best price possible, why not throw in a bedroom suite at an amazing price too?
Living Room Sets - from traditional-style suites with classic textures to modern sets with attractive upholstery, we will help you find the best living room set for your home.
Bedroom Suites - our bedroom suites range from contemporary to classic and come in a variety of colors and styles to compliment your new mattress purchase.
Daybeds - from English-style daybeds available in espresso and cherry colors to multi-purpose beds with pull-out trundles, our selection of daybeds is unbeatable.
Futons - if you have younger children, they will love our futons. Who are we kidding? Adults do too! Futons are incredibly useful in small spaces and convert into comfy-cozy beds perfect for kids of all ages.
Bunkbeds - bunkbeds are another great option to consider if you have kids. Whether you have a classic-style home or an apartment, we have a style that fits you.
If you like what you see but don't have time to visit our mattress store in James Island, don't worry. Our online store is bursting with new items and deals every day. From mattresses and bedding to furniture sets and special sale items, Mattress King has got it all. With the highest quality mattresses, the best prices in James Island, a giant showroom with all the options, and a full team of helpful sales associates, you won't ever need to find another mattress and furniture store again!GET FREE ESTIMATE
As the two-time defending Class AAAA state champion, the James Island girls soccer team fully expects to be a contender for a third straight championship.But, as coach Kimberly Cohn and her 2023 team is finding out, the road to a three-peat is not an easy trek.Beset with several key injuries, and losing a player for part of the season to international competition, Cohn is forced to change formations of her starting lineup while trying to remain competitive.The Trojans remain a viable state title contender with a 6-3-2 re...
As the two-time defending Class AAAA state champion, the James Island girls soccer team fully expects to be a contender for a third straight championship.
But, as coach Kimberly Cohn and her 2023 team is finding out, the road to a three-peat is not an easy trek.
Beset with several key injuries, and losing a player for part of the season to international competition, Cohn is forced to change formations of her starting lineup while trying to remain competitive.
The Trojans remain a viable state title contender with a 6-3-2 record as the season enters the final month of regular season play. The losses have come to formidable opponents (Wando, Oceanside Collegiate and Bluffton).
“The girls have shown some serious grit this season, and with some key players coming back from injury after spring break, I think that we should be able to make a strong run to a third straight state championship,” Cohn says.
Getting through the regular season will not be easy as Region 7-AAAA is very difficult.
“Region & is, in my opinion, the hardest region in AAAA,” Cohn says. “Last year, three out of the four teams that made it into playoffs, made it to the Lower State semi-finals. We are fortunate to be able to face some really great competition throughout the season, and this really prepares us for when we get into playoffs.”
Cohn says she puts a different lineup on the field in virtually every game.
Regular starters Olyvia Briggs (senior captain), Hayden Rape and Ellie Davis, all outside backs, are currently on the sidelines with injuries. All three were key performers in last year’s title run. Rape, a senior and an Appalachian State commit, has missed the entire season but is hopeful to return after spring break.
Junior Marley Walker, a key defender, is missing games as she participates with the Trinidad and Tobago national team in the upcoming CONCACAF Cup. She should be back in the States in time for the state playoff run.
Juniors Alexis Spivey (six goals, six assists) and Gabby Redman (six goals, four assists) continue to set the pace offensively.
Two Charleston-area high school soccer programs are receiving national attention by MaxPreps.com.
The Oceanside Collegiate boys team, currently undefeated, was ranked as No. 1 team in the country in the website’s most recent national rankings.
The MaxPreps rankings are based strictly on results. The more a team wins, the higher the ranking. The system also takes into account quality wins against other highly ranked opponents as well as strength of schedule.
The Landsharks took over the No. 1 spot in the rankings after last week’s No. 1, Chapin High, dropped a 2-1 decision at River Bluff last Saturday. Chapin (10-2) plays in Class AAAAA.
In addition to holding down the No. 1 spot in the MaxPreps rankings, the Landsharks currently sit at No. 22 in the nation according to the United Soccer Coaches poll. That poll has Oceanside ranked third among state schools with Ashley Ridge sitting in the No. 2 spot with an 13-0 record. Ashley Ridge is ranked fifth nationally by MaxPreps.
In girls soccer, Pinewood Prep is ranked No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in South Carolina by MaxPreps. Pinewood Prep is 12-0 this season, outscoring its opponents, 78-4, as the team seeks a third straight SCISA state championship.
Stratford girls basketball coach Kelly McNeil stepped down from her position earlier this week.
McNeil guided the Knights to their best season in school history, reaching the Class AAAAA state finals before losing to Mauldin. The Knights finished with a 25-5 record.
McNeil orchestrated one of the more impressive turnarounds in the state over the last several seasons. From 2017-18 through the 2020-21 season, McNeil and the Knights won just nine of 70 games. However, the last two seasons produced a 44-14 record and the school’s first Lower State championship.
A reason for her resignation was not immediately known.
Something green is coming to Charleston, and we’re not talking about St. Patrick’s Day. A new state park is in the works at the tip of James Island. We spoke with SC State Parks Director Paul McCormack for the latest on the project.The waterfront park will be located on 23 acres at the end of Fort Johnson Road, adjacent to the Fort Johnson historic site. The parcel is managed by the SC Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.In 2021, the state ...
Something green is coming to Charleston, and we’re not talking about St. Patrick’s Day. A new state park is in the works at the tip of James Island. We spoke with SC State Parks Director Paul McCormack for the latest on the project.
The waterfront park will be located on 23 acres at the end of Fort Johnson Road, adjacent to the Fort Johnson historic site. The parcel is managed by the SC Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
In 2021, the state purchased the land from the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy for $23 million. The May Forest Convent located on-site is expected to be converted into an event venue that will be the main component of the new park. Funding has not yet been secured for the venue construction project.
Charlestonians can look forward to a day-use recreation and picnicking area with views of the Charleston Harbor, the Ravenel Bridge, and Fort Sumter. There is an existing gazebo and bench swing. Conceptual images are not yet available, but stay tuned.
An event space, lodging, and a dock may be added in the future. A structural assessment of the property is expected to determine park features down the road. What would you like to see this new park offer? Let us know.
In addition, there is a master plan that envisions the entire ~100-acre Fort Johnson area that is separate from the state park project.
The park is expected to open this spring or summer. There is currently no timeline for potential future amenities, but keep an eye on the newsletter for updates. The plans for Fort Johnson, which surrounds the state park area, are long-term.
JAMES ISLAND – Tucked away in an overgrown forest blanketed in draping Spanish moss, The May Forest Convent will soon become the centerpiece of a new state park.From the outside, the single-story beige building could be anything, but this was where Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy lived and spent their lives in service to their faith on the edge of Charleston Harbor with a panoramic view of the city.Much of the religious artifacts have been removed but the tall stained-glass windows forged in the 1800s and vaulted ...
JAMES ISLAND – Tucked away in an overgrown forest blanketed in draping Spanish moss, The May Forest Convent will soon become the centerpiece of a new state park.
From the outside, the single-story beige building could be anything, but this was where Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy lived and spent their lives in service to their faith on the edge of Charleston Harbor with a panoramic view of the city.
Much of the religious artifacts have been removed but the tall stained-glass windows forged in the 1800s and vaulted point of the chapel are the only giveaways to its former life.
Soon, it will serve a new purpose as an event venue.
Every day, the sisters would start their mornings together in prayer as the sunrise shined through the chapel’s stained-glass windows. They spent most of their days volunteering in the community, caring for their eldest sisters and spending time with one-another during mass, meals and free time.
Sister Mary Joseph, general superior of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, made her vows in 1960 after graduating from high school. Now 80, she said many of her favorite memories throughout those 63 years of service are the times spent with sisters in their chapel after taking the vow “of commitment to the church and in service of God’s people.”
The Sisters of Charity congregation of nuns dates back nearly two centuries in Charleston. The group ran a school for free children of color in the 1840s, cared for both Union and Confederate wounded soldiers during the Civil War, founded the hospital that would evolve into the Roper St. Francis Healthcare system and ran social service organizations that helped those facing poverty.
As the congregation aged and fewer women joined the ranks, a decision was made to relocate its surviving members to the Bishop Gadsden retirement home and sell the property. The once sacred place of prayer is just a place of peace now, nestled along the waterfront. It sits empty, but the state has big plans for the site.
The 23-acre waterfront parcel was bought by the state in 2021 for $23.25 million. Located at the end of Fort Johnson Road, the convent was built in the 1950s.
The waterfront property offers a one-of-a-kind view that can only otherwise be seen from a boat in the harbor, complete with views of downtown Charleston, Fort Sumter, and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The waves gently grace the shore, offering a soothing sound in tune with the rustling trees.
Despite having a cash offer from a developer, the Catholic Church worked with the state to preserve the property. Many had hoped it would become a park to keep that rare view from being privatized. It’s a promise the state intends to keep.
The property is owned by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, which runs the marine lab next door, and is managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
“Unless you were a sister or visiting priest, chances are you didn’t know that this was tucked away back here,” said agency Director Duane Parrish. “This is a rare opportunity here. We envision the building to become a space for people to stay or to enjoy events like weddings, and for the property to become a place where people can relax along the harbor-front in a peaceful park setting.”
The venue will be similar to Charles Towne Landing, he added.
Director of State Parks Paul McCormack envisions the rental space will include overnight accommodations as well as a chapel area, a rental hall and dining offerings, and the scenic view will be a “prime wedding location along the harbor.”
“It may not look like it now but there’s no doubt about it, this would be a unique event space,” McCormack said. “To be right on the water outside of downtown and to have this view, it’s one of a kind.”
As it stands, the convent main building has 27 rooms, a chapel that seats 60 and a large open meeting space that can seat 125. Once updates are completed, they expect around 15-20 rooms. They also hope to add a dock along the water to complement the existing gazebo and bench swing.
McCormack said the biggest challenge is the convent is not turnkey and ready to rent out.
The property is undergoing evaluation as part of a master planning process that will map out the next 20 years for the entire Fort Johnson pointe, the area surrounding that part of James Island. The building needs to be reviewed by architects and engineers to see what the price tag will be to renovate.
“This was a treasured place of religion, which is evident by the chapel and other markers,” Parish said. “We want to acknowledge and honor its 70-year history as a convent, yet modernize it for future generations to cherish. It’s location along the harbor makes it the perfect place for weddings and events.”
The property was most recently used as a film set for the Netflix flick “Suncoast,” featuring Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney. A faux digital stained-glass window featured in the film still sits in the chapel as a centerpiece over the former altar.
This business model is a new approach to helping the department become more self-sustaining, Parrish said. Eventually, money made from renting the convent’s rooms and event space will go back into upkeep and renovations.
The undertaking is expected to have an architectural design in place by sometime in 2024. Parrish said his office has requested about $10 million in assistance from lawmakers, on top of the $5 million received last year.
While the future state park on the site has not been officially named, it is likely to be May Forest at Fort Johnson State Park. It’s a nod to the convent and the area’s rich history — the point at the end of Fort Johnson Road is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter.
When the property was bought by the Catholic Church, the sisters raised money to clear the land and build their new home. The building housed sisters and new members joining the religious community who needed to be trained.
Sister Mary Joseph said that as times changed, the needs of the sisters did too. Much of the building was renovated after Hurricane Hugo. By that time fewer sisters were joining and existing members needed somewhere to age in place. A great hall was added to become the “center of spirituality” and more rooms for the aging and semiretired sisters were built, as well as a medical wing for those needing more intense medical care.
Now, the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy are only 12 members strong. While the decision to sell their home was a difficult one, Sister Mary Joseph said their top priority was ensuring their members were taken care of. It came down to knowing their financial and health care needs were too great.
“The sale of the property allowed us to move to Bishop Gadsden, which allowed us to provide continuing health care at different levels for our sisters,” Sister Mary Joseph said. “There is a strong sense of community at Bishop Gadsden. Our sisters there, who are able, can continue practicing their faith and provide ministry to other residents. It’s been life-giving in that sense for the sisters.”
Sister Mary Joseph said that the sisters’ faith, ministry and charity are gifts that they “continue to share wherever we are.”
A collection of artifacts and history panels are displayed in a room within the convent, which has been called the “Heritage Room.”
The state will soon open the former convent’s grounds for individuals looking to picnic or roam the property of the former convent.
“I’m so proud that our state stepped in to protect this property and its history by ensuring it’s accessible to everyone,” McCormack said. “The opportunities we have before us with this project are endless.”
A galactic-themed hot dog restaurant is returning to James Island after whirling away a decade ago.Jarrett Hodson, who bought Jack’s Cosmic Dogs in Mount Pleasant last April from longtime owner Jack Hurley, intends to transform the former Sweetwater Cafe...
A galactic-themed hot dog restaurant is returning to James Island after whirling away a decade ago.
Jarrett Hodson, who bought Jack’s Cosmic Dogs in Mount Pleasant last April from longtime owner Jack Hurley, intends to transform the former Sweetwater Cafe at 801 Folly Road into a family-centric version of the East Cooper eatery.
Sweetwater operated on James Island for 18 years before it closed last June. Other Sweetwater sites can be found in downtown Charleston and Summerville.
Hodson, founder of mortgage company Sweetgrass Capital, indicated last year he wanted to return to James Island. He said he chose the site for several reasons.
“It’s highly visible, has plenty of parking, and I wanted to be close to the James Island connector,” he said. “I also wanted to make sure there is outdoor space for dining and for children to run around.”
He plans to add a fenced-in area on the front of the property for outdoor dining and children’s activities.
Hodson would like to be open by the summer, but he said the timing depends on how quickly the 1,889-square-foot building can be renovated.
The building is owned by Prospect Real Estate Partners of Charleston, which bought the site next to Santee Street last August for $765,000, according to Charleston County land records. Hodson plans to lease the property.
Jack’s once had another restaurant farther east on Folly Road, but it closed in 2013 to make way for Bohemian Bull Tavern & Beer Garden, which plans to open a Mount Pleasant venue soon.
The James Island hot dog restaurant is not the only food-and-beverage venture Hodson is pursuing. He also plans to renovate an 800-square-foot building at 47 Cooper St. on the peninsula. The structure housed Fair Deal Grocery, which dates back to 1953 and was started by the Powell family. The East Side convenience store also had a kitchen element called The Spot 47.
Hodson plans to convert the one-story structure into a grab-and-go sandwich spot that serves beer and wine as well. The site will retain its original name.
“It will be a place for people who live in the community and for those who are working nearby to come and gather for a bite to eat or a drink,” he said.
Hodson is partnering with Powell family members on the venture.
A Mount Pleasant-based sunglass shop is adding a third location in the Lowcountry.
Shades of Charleston, which also carries outdoor apparel, flip flops, sunscreen and other merchandise, will open its new store March 13 at 1917 Savannah Highway in West Ashley.
The 1,500-square-foot shop will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The manager is Will Norvell.
Charleston native Steve Cordina said the store has been in the works for a couple of years.
“Our customers have been asking us for years for a presence west of the Ashley,” Cordina said. “We were listening, were patient and found the perfect location.”
The sunglass store started in 2012 at 233 Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. It opened its next location at 2205 Middle St. on Sullivan’s Island in 2016.
A North Charleston-based retail chain is adding two more stores across the Southeast.
Palmetto Moon will open its first Kentucky stores over the next few weeks. A new shop in Fayette Mall in Lexington will welcome customers March 25 followed by a new store at Mall St. Matthews in Louisville on April 8.
The expansion will bring the lifestyle and collegiate gear merchant to 40 stores across seven states, including four in the Charleston area.
“It’s an honor to build on 20 years of incredible momentum as we open our doors to Kentucky,” said Amber Dube, Palmetto Moon executive vice president and chief brand officer.
The Charleston Farmers Market makes a full return to Marion Square next month in downtown Charleston. It will run April 8 through Nov. 25 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m each Saturday.
The vendor roster includes roughly 70 farmers and growers, prepared and packaged food offerings and artisan crafts. Each market also will feature live music by local artists.
A limited market will be open each Saturday in March. Because of the Cooper River Bridge Run, the market won’t be open April 1.
In West Ashley, the Farmers Market will resume 3-7 p.m. April 19 and continue each Wednesday through Oct. 25 at Ackerman Park at 55 Sycamore Ave.
The market will include farmers and growers, artisanal food products, rotating food trucks, live music and free parking.
A new food-related shop is coming to Citadel Mall. Simply Your Desserts Bakery plans to open next to Bath & Body Works.
A custom lampshade maker in downtown Charleston is hosting its grand opening through March 12.
The Lampshade Library by Sorella Glenn will offer shade-fitting demonstrations, gift card giveaways, special pricing and libations at 141 Market St.
The shop will give away a $100 gift card each day and offer 15 percent off all shade purchases as part of the event, according to co-owner Katy Glenn Roe.
The shop offers customers a chance to design lampshades, select trims and check out loaner shades.
An Alabama-based fitness firm now offers a second location in the Charleston area and plans to open up to three others in the Lowcountry.
Iron Tribe Fitness recently opened at 601 Meeting St. on the upper peninsula. The 3,500-square-foot gym offers individualized coaching and group classes, as well as customized semi-private personal training options.
The company opened its first Charleston-area gym 10 years ago in Mount Pleasant.
Founder and CEO Forrest Walden plans to open two or three new fitness sites in the region over the next few years.
Iron Tride currently has 29 gyms in eight states, with more than two-thirds owned and operated by franchisees. The company plans to open at least five new locations in the U.S. this year and up to 5-10 each year afterwards.
Also, a new pilates studio is now open in downtown Charleston. Taylor Grant opened the new workout site at 87 Hasell St. near The Charleston Place hotel and retail complex.
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.“We just have to ...
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.
That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.
Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.
“We just have to be willing to move forward and do it,” Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt said. “Every day I get more and more calls.”
The project would create a 9½-mile, four-lane road from the current end of I-526 in West Ashley, to Johns Island and then onto James Island with a connection to the end of the James Island connector at Folly Road.
Most of the road would be elevated, with a proposed speed limit between 35 and 45 mph.
The marginally better cost estimate was delivered by S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall in a letter to the county. The previous price tag was estimated at $2.35 billion, while the new estimate that followed a consultant’s study came in at $2.2 billion.
“I think initially there was some thought that maybe we have overinflated the numbers,” Hall said.
When the higher cost estimate came out in May, Bradly Taggart, co-founder of Charlestonians for I-526, told County Council members that a temporary spike in commodity prices was likely to blame. He predicted that “we could be looking at a project that costs half as much in six months’ time as the market rebalances.”
Instead, the estimate dropped by less than 7 percent.
Hall said the estimated $150 million reduction came mainly from reducing the cost of potential “risk elements” — surprises during construction, such as unplanned conflicts with utilities or unexpected poor soil conditions — and partly from reducing expected cost inflation.
“This estimate has built into it every possible contingency for things that could go wrong,” said Honeycutt, who said she thinks the actual cost will be lower.
Hall asked the county to develop “a financial plan that is rational and realistic” for the entire road project, which would be required in order to get final approval for an environmental review from the federal government. She also asked the county to approve $150 million in preliminary work, with the county paying half that cost, to keep the plan moving forward.
Honeycutt and Council Chairman Teddie Pryor both said they favor a new half-percent sales tax referendum as the best way to pay the cost. County voters previously approved two such sales tax increases, mostly to fund road projects.
Pryor said if there were another referendum, it could be entirely dedicated to funding the Mark Clark Extension. The most recent sales tax increase, following a 2016 referendum, was expected to raise $1.89 billion for specified road projects in the county, over 25 years.
The county received the new cost estimate for the Mark Clark Extension on Dec. 2, a spokesperson said, and has not had time to discuss it. The earlier higher estimate was delivered to the county in May.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Councilman Henry Darby said at the time. “I would never, ever go with this.”
The Mark Clark Extension has lots of support, including the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the city of Charleston and the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, but also lots of opposition. The Coastal Conservation League said in May that the multibillion-dollar price tag “is a perfect opportunity for Charleston County Council to walk away from this project.”
A community organization called Nix 526 has also been fighting the extension, and Charleston Waterkeeper and the S.C. Wildlife Federation have raised objections.
Supporters say it’s necessary for traffic relief and possible hurricane evacuations, while opponents say it will increase development on Johns Island and harm the environment while providing little traffic relief at great cost.
New roads tend to provide traffic relief for a time but also spur development. The existing portion of I-526 from North Charleston to Mount Pleasant initially provided traffic relief and a new hurricane evacuation option, but it also accelerated development in northern Mount Pleasant and on Daniel Island. The state is currently planning to spend about $4 billion to widen that part of the interstate.
Here are some numbers to put $1.78 billion in context:
The S.C. Department of Transportation assumes that if the Mark Clark Extension project goes forward, litigation could delay it by two or three years.
Pryor blamed opponents for the rising costs of the project, and said it could have been built for far less years or decades ago. In 2015, the cost estimate was $725 million.
Unlike the even-more-expensive plans to widen and improve the existing sections of I-526 — for about $7 billion — the state in 2019 limited its contribution to the Mark Clark Extension project to $420 million and the county agreed to finance the rest.
“Our interstate program is focused on upgrading our existing interstates,” said Hall, and those plans are focused on moving freight and aiding commerce. The state is pursuing plans to widen all or portions of interstates 526, 26 and 95, and to redesign multiple interchanges.
County Council is expected to discuss options for the Mark Clark Extension at a future meeting. Hall did not put a deadline on her request for action.