by John Steinberger | May 9, 2017 1:59 pm
A group of more than 60 business leaders gathered the West Ashley planning studio, which will be located at the Citadel Mall for the rest of the week, and shared their aspirations for the area’s future. It is part of the months-long process of developing a West Ashley Master Plan. The event was sponsored by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce: West.
Among the terms used to describe the future of West Ashley were vibrant, connected, maintaining the area’s suburban character, and a great place to live, work and play. West Ashley Revitalization Commission member Donna Jacobs summed up the group’s sentiments by saying, “I want to see commercial viability, residential livability and great neighborhoods.”
Victor Dover from consulting company Dover Kohl, which is facilitating the planning process, said that the objectives of the business leaders closely matches the responses given by the more than 550 residents who participated in four citizen input sessions held throughout the area. Dover said he rarely observes such close alignment in community planning objectives.
Economic Development consultant Dena Belzer provided some interesting statistics on West Ashley. The area has 72,000 people and 27,000 jobs, most in retail, hospitality and health care. West Ashley is categorized as a “bedroom community”, with 84% of those who live there commuting to other areas. The average rental price for the area is more than $1300 per month. Belzer said that West Ashley is competing with Mt. Pleasant and North Charleston for quality retailers.
Belzer noted that the Citadel Mall could be a catalyst for West Ashley’s economic revival. Transforming the mall into a mixed-use development containing retail stores, commercial office space and residential units could be the key to making the mall an economic success. Charleston resident Richard C. Davis, CEO of Trademark Properties, now leads the Citadel Mall ownership group and is working on plans to transform the West Ashley landmark.
Dover commented on the data compiled at workshops along the Bees Ferry Rd. corridor, noting that the people there want to replicate success stories like the Avondale, Byrnes Downs and South Windermere neighborhoods are enjoying today with a vibrant retail environment. Jamee Haley, Executive Director of non-profit Lowcountry Local First, said that the Avondale transformation was made possible through local investment, ownership and patronage. Neighborhood residents take pride in the local businesses close to home.
Commercial real estate developer Ed Kronsberg with the Addlestone Group wants to see West Ashley become a robust office space hub. He says that there is already a trend on law offices relocating from downtown to West Ashley, benefitting from lower rental or ownership costs and free parking for clients. He anticipates that more architecture firms and technology companies will make West Ashley their home in the near future.
The West Ashley design studio will be open to the public during normal Citadel Mall operating hours through Friday Concerned citizens may drop in and post comments on Post-It notes on a map of West Ashley. The full West Ashley Revitalization Commission will hold its regular May meeting there Wednesday from 5 to 7:30 pm and take questions from the public. A summary of the public input will be presented in the Center Court area of the mall adjacent to JC Penney Saturday, May 13 from 10 am to noon. Follow the design studio schedule and post comments at https://www.planwestashley.com/engage
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