By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 6, 2014
Development is heading for a large area of Charleston’s peninsula that has yet to be fully built out — and the city is hoping to guide that growth.
The city of Charleston looks to add about 25,000 residents to the peninsula over the next two decades, up from its current 35,000 residents. A new master plan for about 860 acres north of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge could carry much of this growth in an area that already has some residents, businesses and warehouses on it.
Local leaders want to attract people to the city center to prevent sprawl, which causes stress on city services and roadways, according to Tim Keane, Charleston’s chief planning director.
In the Charleston Upper Peninsula Initiative, the city looks to create a mix of housing options at different price points and more mixed-use developments, with a focus on increasing employment opportunities in the area, Keane said.
The city wants to create urban agriculture, community places, parks and a tech district as well.
Mobility issues — including bike lanes, parking availability, public transit and pedestrian options — are all parts of the plan. Bike lanes on Morrison Drive and Huger and upper Meeting streets are being considered, said Jacob Lindsey, director of the city’s Design Division.
Keane and Lindsey presented the city’s master plan for the first time on Thursday to about 100 local residents and business owners. The meeting was their first chance to explain the plan and hear locals’ concerns and desires.
“We didn’t come here tonight to say we’re going to build anything. In fact, we’re not,” Keane said of the land, which will be mostly privately developed. “We came here tonight because somebody else will build something. The point of this is to work together and use this as a guide. We don’t want to react to development happening.”
Attendees spoke of the need for better mobility on the peninsula and more affordable housing options. Some had concerns about the density and height of new developments. Others were worried about streets flooding and congestion from the nearby rail line.
The majority of speakers focused on potential gentrification of the area. Several residents said they feared rising property taxes and increasing rental rates as new housing developments, office space and retail establishments move into the Eastside and upper peninsula areas of downtown, pushing longtime area residents out of the city.
“Will there really be affordable housing? I don’t mean housing that’s $1,000 to $2,000 a month. That’s not affordable,” said the Rev. Alma Dungee.
Several residents spoke of the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the early 2000s, which caused homes to be demolished. The city planned to build affordable housing options to replace the homes, but it did not happen. The city is now in the process of planning about 150 affordable housing units in the area, Keane said.
Keane said there’s a huge focus on providing more-affordable housing in the area for existing and new residents alike, including more public housing. The area’s population is 30% children, so that plays a role in residential planning as well, Keane said.
“One of the reasons we’re taking a comprehensive planning approach to the whole area has to do with ensuring that the people that live there now and work there now have the opportunities to stay there, and that the area develops great diversity in the housing and employment opportunities it offers,” Keane said previously.
City officials will host more community meetings and go door-to-door to inform residents of the plan, which will likely go before City Council sometime this summer.
Within the redevelopment of the upper peninsula, Charleston City Council and the Charleston Digital Corridor are also working to develop a 10-acre Charleston Innovation District along Morrison Drive.
Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.