Developers: Mixed-use helps growth, traffic

Beach Co. Vice President Dan Doyle (left) and Brent Gibadlo, real estate development director for MWV Community Development and Land Management, talk about mixed-use developments in the Charleston region. (Photo/Kim McManus)
Beach Co. Vice President Dan Doyle (left) and Brent Gibadlo, real estate development director for MWV Community Development and Land Management, talk about mixed-use developments in the Charleston region. (Photo/Kim McManus)
By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published April 23, 2014

As the Charleston region continues to grow quickly and housing affordability and traffic issues follow, several local developers said mixed-use, higher density developments are part of the solution.

Mixed-use communities usually offer a combination of housing options, commercial space and outdoor amenities. Some are on a smaller scale, like The Beach Co.’s 325-unit The Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, while others are on a massive scale, like Nexton, MeadWestvaco’s 4,500-acre mixed-use planned community in Summerville.

Charleston’s growing population puts pressure on the region to offer affordable housing options near jobs, walkable communities and adequate infrastructure that can handle more people on the roads, the developers said at the Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Power Breakfast today.

DI Development Co. President Matt Sloan talks about mixed-use developments at Thursday’s Power Breakfast. (Photo/Kim McManus)
DI Development Co. President Matt Sloan talks about mixed-use developments at Thursday’s Power Breakfast. (Photo/Kim McManus)
(Photo/Kim McManus)
(Photo/Kim McManus)
“How sustainable is it for us as a region to continue to grow outward with inadequate infrastructure? … People are not going to stop coming to this region. We need to start planning for that now,” said Dan Doyle, vice president of development at The Beach Co., which also developed Riviera at Seaside Farms in Mount Pleasant.

Some residents and community leaders argue that higher density developments create more traffic issues and are not as aesthetically pleasing as individual homes, while others say they can prevent urban sprawl and cut down on traffic problems since most amenities are within the developments.

Charleston’s No. 1 asset is the quality of life, and it is crucial for the region to address housing and infrastructure issues to maintain that quality, according to Daniel Island Co. President Matt Sloan.

The Daniel Island Co. sees mixed-use communities as part of the solution to Charleston’s growing pains. The company is developing Carnes Crossroads in Goose Creek and it is best known for creating the Daniel Island community, which it’s using as a model for the adjacent Cainhoy Plantation master plan.

“The biggest threats to growing businesses or getting ones to come here are affordable housing and traffic,” Sloan said. “Much of Charleston is a ‘drive till you qualify market.’ If we don’t figure that out, the problem will get worse and worse.”

The mixed-use communities also fit the demand of young professionals, who are often more transient, more likely to change jobs and more demanding of housing options. They want affordable, mixed-use and walkable developments, Doyle said. This is especially true for workers in the technology sector.

“If that is a sector this region wants to continue to grow, mixed-use housing developments are crucial to that,” Doyle said.

Mixed-use developments were part of the reality pre-automobile when people had to walk to locations, and they could be part of the mobility solution amid an explosion of traffic and infrastructure issues, said Michael Maher, CEO of the Horizon Project Foundation.

“Part of our challenge is looking to the long-term future,” Maher said. “Transit isn’t part of our vocabulary. Other aggressive cities that are growing at least as fast are embracing new ways to get around. We need to be doing that.”

The Horizon Project will redevelop 20 acres in downtown Charleston into a mixed-use, urban community. The site sits along the Ashley River adjacent to the Medical University of South Carolina.

The Nexton development also aims to address traffic congestion by reversing community patterns — where many North Charleston and Summerville workers commute to work on Interstate 26 or Interstate 526 — and creating housing and work options within the Nexton community, said Brent Gibadlo, real estate development director for MWV Community Development and Land Management.

“We need to maximize our current infrastructure as we think about how to grow it in the future,” Gibadlo said. “Part of that is giving people housing options closer to where they work. They can have less time in the car and more time with their families.”

When an audience member asked if more mixed-use developments were planned for James Island, Johns Island or West Ashley, the panel was mostly quiet, but Sloan said “ambitious developments on infill sites” are likely to come to West Ashley soon.


Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or
@lizsegrist on Twitter.

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