Free parking gives West Ashley businesses a competitive edge

Free parking gives West Ashley businesses a competitive edge
March 22 16:14 2018 Print This Article

The City of Charleston recently decided to double the parking fee for its 1700 metered parking spaces to $2 per hour.  WTMA radio host Charlie James received more than an hour of calls on his program Thursday morning, and almost every caller stated that the cost and inconvenience of finding parking would make them less likely to visit Downtown Charleston.  The abundance of free parking in West Ashley could be used as a marketing point to attract new businesses and bring more customers to existing ones.

The recently adopted West Ashley Master Plan shows drawings of shopping centers with no visible parking spaces.  It misses the point of the suburban lifestyle.  Those of us who choose to live in the suburbs want to drive our cars and park on-site. Following the master plan would like involve hundreds of millions in bicycle and pedestrian path spending.  There are currently thousands of homes connected to the West Ashley Walmart, yet I have never seen anyone ride a bicycle to shop there.

South Windermere Shopping Center, St. Andrews Shopping Center, Ashley Landing and Westwood Plaza are thriving because of the abundant parking.  They continue to attract high-quality restaurants, retailers and service providers.  Their landscaping upgrades have also made them more attractive shopping destinations.

Citadel Mall is being transformed with service providers as tenants.  Planet Fitness, a spacious fitness studio, and Flip Gym, a gymnastics facility, attract thousands of customers to the mall.  MUSC has signed a long-term lease to operate an out-patient clinic at the former JC Penney space.  A major reason for the move is the convenience for patients to enjoy free parking.

I can envision law offices, financial services agencies, accounting firms and medical and dental practices leaving downtown and relocating to West Ashley to be more accessible to their clients.  Kuhn and Kuhn Law Firm, which specializes in estate planning and probate law, recently moved from its downtown office to a new building on Savannah Highway.  Locating professional offices is not only a convenience for clients – it also removes the expense for employee parking.