|Huge news for Charleston
||[Nov. 11th, 2008|08:41 pm]
Retail, office, transit project unveiled for N. Charleston
By Ashley Fletcher Frampton
Developers and North Charleston city officials announced plans today for a huge mixed-use development near U.S. 78 and Interstate 26 that will unfold during the next 20 to 25 years.
Plans include more than 3.6 million square feet of office, retail and residential space, some of which will be built as a new city center with higher density than downtown Charleston, officials said.
Click on the images above, provided by DMR Architecture, to see larger versions.
Developers said they are looking past the troubled economy and positioning themselves for better times. In fact, the plans are so forward-looking, they include a hub for rail transit — a much-talked-about idea in the Lowcountry but one that has no funding source.
Owner Weber Automotive, a German automotive parts manufacturer, has planned two phases of development for the 1,800 acres known as Ingleside Plantation. Weber has partnered with the Weiser Cos., the developer of North Charleston’s Centre Pointe, which includes the Tanger Factory Outlet Center.
The first phase will be a traditional suburban shopping center with retail, a grocery store, office space and apartments, said Richard Weiser, president of the Weiser Cos. Work on that phase should start in about seven months. Planned development totals 1.12 million square feet.
Plans for the second phase include big-box and other types of development arranged around a new city center where people can live, work and visit, officials said. That phase will have 2.5 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and residential space.
Some development in that portion of the project is expected to be high-end, comparable perhaps to downtown Charleston, said Elliott Summey, vice president of business development for the Weiser Cos. and the son of North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. But densities in that phase could be higher than in downtown because the project will not face the city of Charleston’s height restrictions, he said.
Elliott Summey mentioned the possibility of luxury hotels and office space that could draw new businesses to the region.
Drawings for the second phase also show a rapid-transit hub with transit-oriented development around it, located near the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. Summey said the area’s Charleston Area Transportation Study planning group is studying the possibility of rail and he envisions a rail line connecting Charleston with Orangeburg and beyond.
“Someday, we believe that rapid transit is going to be a very important thing in Charleston,” Weiser said.
The mayor described the project as one that would draw people from as far as 200 miles away to shop and live.
“It has a grouping of what we need to create an end to urban sprawl,” Summey said.
Summey said that, for too long in the Charleston area, neighborhoods have been built without any retail development nearby, forcing people to crowd the roads to buy a gallon of milk.
Officials acknowledged the troubled economy, which has hurt both the real estate and automotive industries, but otherwise seemed unfazed by it.
Summey said the Charleston area’s economic slowdown has not been as bad as in some parts of the country and that growth will continue to happen here. He attributes the area’s relative strength to government-related jobs and manufacturing sectors that are still thriving.
The Ingleside Plantation project will serve new growth, the mayor said, and it will be built in phases to meet emerging demand.
Elliott Summey echoed that sentiment when asked about demand for the millions of square feet of development.
“That’s why this is a 20-year project,” he said.
Weber Automotive’s president, Albert Weber, introduced the project in short statements spoken in German and translated by another Weber official.
“Weber Automotive is a company that has left its footprint in the automotive world,” Weber said. “We are trying to get at least a small footprint in the development world.”
Weber promised to develop the project in a way that would be sensitive to the environment and to the history of the area.
“History is very important in Europe,” Weber said. “We try to keep history in its place. … We think history is also important here. We will try to connect the history of that project to the future of our region.”
Not all of the property will be developed. Much of the area is wetlands and could be preserved as a park, officials said.
Reach Ashley Fletcher Frampton at 849-3129.