Community, city leaders continue discussions on future of St. Julian Devine Smokestacks

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Community and city leaders are discussing ways to preserve the St. Julian Devine Community Center’s Smokestacks. This comes just months after it looked like the smokestacks would be demolished.

Leaders have their eye on saving the nearly century old smokestacks if possible. On Thursday, the task force got a look at the latest conditions following an inspection which listed the north chimney to be in “good condition” for its age, to make a decision on the best path forward.

Rising 135 feet above Downtown Charleston’s skyline could be two ticking time bombs if nothing is done.

“The only thing that is really new is the additional cracking in the liner at the top and things have basically just continued to deteriorate,” says Preservation Engineer Crag Bennett.

City leaders find themselves at the tail end of the busiest hurricane season on record. Mayor John Tecklenburg says the increased activity should serve warning to take action.

“Whatever we do we want to try to get accomplished if at all possible before the next serious part of the hurricane season,” says Mayor Tecklenburg.

After calls from community leaders to preserve the historic smokestacks, city and community leaders are working together to weigh options moving forward.

“Their recommendations include first developing an engineering solution to reinforce the interior of the chimney for seismic and wind,” says Bennett.

Bennett says a recent inspection of the north chimney shows removing the inner lining could be the best option to save the outer shell but says it’s a risky project.

“If that liner collapses, that it could take out a side wall of the chimney and if it does take out one of those sidewalls, we could very well lose the whole chimney,” says Bennett.

City leaders are still reviewing inspection results and findings from the south chimney before making a final decision on the fate of the chimney. Previous estimates put the cost of demolishing the chimneys at $535,000, preserving them through height reduction at $1.6 million and preserving the chimneys in their entirety at roughly $3 million.

“We’re on a bit of a fact finding mission and maybe a bit of a fundraising mission as well,” says Tecklenburg.

The task force plans to further review the findings of the two inspections before scheduling another meeting likely in early December.

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