Why the push for apartments in shopping centers?

Why the push for apartments in shopping centers?
August 09 18:39 2018 Print This Article

There is a concerted effort in the Lowcountry to retrofit our suburban shopping centers with apartment units. That was an idea presented at the August meeting of the West Ashley Revitalization Commission on Wednesday. Doing so would not only be an engineering challenge – it would also be an inconvenience to the tenants at the shopping centers. It would remove a major advantage to suburban businesses – abundant free parking. The City of Charleston has promoted the idea of making Sam Rittenberg Boulevard like King Street. The drawings of Sam Rittenberg in the West Ashley Master Plan show six-story structures with almost no setback from the road and no parking spaces. It is completely out of character for the area.

Area leaders are attempting to completely change our suburban lifestyle. Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings was discussing mass transportation plans on WTMA with host Charlie James Wednesday and said, “We need to condition people to get out of their cars and onto the buses.” That is not how our residents choose to live. Most people live a half mile or more from a government-run bus stop, and the routes are infrequent and time-consuming. If there is going to be an alternative to traveling in personal vehicles, it would be through the on-demand private sector concept of micro-transit.

The West Ashley Revitalization Commission will likely hold its September 12 meeting at Citadel Mall and have the ownership group Trademark Properties discuss its redevelopment plans. The West Ashley Master Plan, which was approved by Charleston City Council in February, showed a drawing with the current mall parking spaces being packed with apartments, conference centers and hotels. Trademark Properties already has a long-term lease with MUSC to operate an outpatient clinic at the former JC Penny space. The company also has acquired the former Sears space. CEO Richard Davis has a vision to build a traveling sports competition center at the mall, which would bring in thousands of visitors each weekend for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, dance and other competitions. The business model for the mall would require an abundance of free parking for mall patrons. Building apartments at the site would not likely fit that model.

It is vital for the citizens of the Lowcountry to contact their elected officials and tell them what type of development they want in their communities. Do you want to depend on the government bus service to get to your destination? Do you want to ride a bicycle for miles in the August heat? Or would you prefer the convenience of driving your car and having free parking? Business owners need to speak up on this issue, too. What do your customers want? Once the parking spaces are taken away, they are never coming back.