by John Steinberger | February 22, 2018 5:10 pm
The City of Charleston is making the pitch that implementing the West Ashley Master Plan will make Sam Rittenberg Boulevard West Ashley’s King Street. The plan, which was guided by planning firm Dover Kohl, is based on the concept of New Urbanism, which calls for high-density apartment complexes and more “non-vehicular” transportation and mass transportation. You can view the Dover Kohl image of Sam Rittenberg at PlanWestAshley.com. It depicts an endless string of high-rise structures extending right up to the road. What you don’t see are parking spaces.
Think about King Street – most of the buildings are three stories or less. While the city lauds the “walkability” and fine shopping of King Street, it does not mention that most of the shoppers are tourists. West Ashley demographics discourage many upscale retailers from locating here. As former City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson once said, “If the highest use for commercial property in West Ashley is a grocery store, there is a problem with our economic development strategy.”
One of the reference materials for New Urbanists is The End of the Suburbs by Leigh Gallagher. The book theorizes that people living in single-family homes and traveling by car consume too large of a “carbon footprint.” The facts that carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04% of the atmosphere and that human activity accounts for only 3% of that tiny concentration call into question why urban planners want to change the suburban lifestyle. Several of our elected officials have uttered the phrase, “We need to get people out of their cars.”
Another drawing in the master plan shows Citadel Mall with no parking spaces. We’re now being told that there are parking spaces behind the road-front high-rises. The business model being used by current mall owner Trademark Properties requires plentiful parking. MUSC has a long-term lease to operate an out-patient clinic at the former JC Penney space, with the abundant free parking considered a convenience for its patients. There are also plans to build a travelling sports Event Center between Belk and Dillard’s to accommodate thousands of visitors each weekend participating in regional competitions. Most of the visitors would be traveling by motor vehicle.
When a public hearing was held on the master plan February 13, Ashford Place resident Karl Brinkert cautioned that filling in wetlands and allowing high density development would only lead to more traffic congestion and flooding. The remark was met with applause. The only substantive question posed by a City Councilman came from William Dudley Gregorie. He asked, “How much is this plan going to cost?” Mayor John Tecklenburg chuckled and responded, “Millions and millions of dollars.” The city has recently authorized several bicycle and pedestrian path projects costing about $4 Million per mile. All of the paths called for in the master plan could easily cost more than $100 Million.
New Urbanism advocates suggest that people should live within a 10-minute walk of where they work. If we added thousands of apartment dwellers on Sam Rittenberg, what employment opportunities would be within a ten-minute walk? With the average West Ashley rent al cost exceeding $1300, could the new residents make ends meet by bagging groceries or serving food?
Will Haynie got elected Mayor of Mt. Pleasant in November on the theme “Let’s keep Mt. Pleasant special.” The same theme could easily be applied to West Ashley. By crowding people into high-density housing, making it inconvenient for people to drive and taking away parking spaces, we would be fundamentally transforming the suburban lifestyle that makes West Ashley such a special place to live. Let’s keep King Street downtown.
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