City working on West Ashley strategy

By Ashley Barker
Published Feb. 27, 2014

West Ashley is on the verge of an “extraordinary economic boom,” according to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

“This is a wonderful place to live. The neighborhoods are beautiful and strong and are growing in value. The infrastructure is being reinforced,” Riley said during a Business in Your Backyard breakfast hosted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday in West Ashley.

City officials have gathered some ideas for improving Citadel Mall from SouthPark in Charlotte. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
City officials have gathered some ideas for improving Citadel Mall from SouthPark in Charlotte. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
City officials are in the process of completing a market analysis of West Ashley so they can begin working on an economic strategy. They’re looking at population trends and comparing the area’s retail, office and residential developments to other markets in the region. The analysis — a project involving Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability — will also help clarify the business districts in West Ashley.

“We feel like there’s a few centers in West Ashley that we need to be reinforcing and helping enable development in a way that we think it can happen,” Keane said. “We need to pay attention to what opportunities exist along the business streets and business districts and shopping centers.”

Citadel Mall, located near the intersection of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Interstate 526, was repossessed by its lien holder in January after it failed to pay back more than $69 million of a $75 million loan. Despite its foreclosure and ownership change, the mall in West Ashley is remaining open with more than 70 retailers including anchors Belk, Dillard’s, JC Penney, Sears and Target.

Keane and his staff have some ideas that might help the mall, which has had many tenants complaining about low sales. He said the city is going to be working with the management team and new owners to come up with a plan.

“Citadel Mall block, the whole block, can be a center again. It just needs to be remade into something that will be the place everybody in West Ashley wants to go to multiple times a week,” Keane said. “My feeling is that it’s way closer to becoming that again than we might think.”

The city has gathered some ideas for improvement from Charlotte's SouthPark. Its redevelopment took place over more than a dozen years and included new outdoor places, apartments, structured parking, a hotel and a public space that includes an amphitheater, according to Keane.

“I’m not saying we’re going to have an amphitheater at Citadel Mall. My point is that adding different uses like this and maybe even a public space of the appropriate type in that location, would help us bring it all together,” Keane said. “I don’t envision more anchor retail necessarily at Citadel Mall.”

In addition to the mall, city officials are focusing on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Highway 17.

“Sam Rittenberg seems likely to get some suggestions for changes that will improve the appearance and how the street is used for all modes of transportation,” Keane said. “We do know there are going to be opportunities for other uses. Maybe it’s office, maybe it’s residential or some retail.”

City Council member William Moody said the area has been decaying for the past decade.

“We’ve just been over here existing,” Moody said. “This problem is much bigger than just the Citadel Mall. We weren’t doing anything.”

He said West Ashley residents should be asking “What does the Charleston region need that will work in West Ashley?”

“Let’s build some office buildings that will bring people in that will eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores,” Moody said. “We can make it happen. It’s a great place to live. We just need to make it a great place to work and play.”

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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