The new Goodwill Outlet Store on Johns Island shows how thoughtful landscape architecture not only pleases the eye but also can tackle more mundane tasks.

The 1758 Main Road property is flat, and much of it is covered with a sizable building and a parking lot. That posed a challenge as far as dealing with the stormwater runoff.

Landscape architect J.R. Kramer of Remark says the solution was to design a series of rain gardens.

“We’ve actually engineered these to perform as if they were wetlands,” he says. “Instead of your typical detention pond, we tried to make it look a lot better.”

The site includes four rain gardens, also referred to as “bioswales.” They’re essentially carefully designed ditches.

“It’s all about celebrating rain,” he says.

Each has a special soil mix underneath to ease their drainage. Kramer says most are dry 24 hours after the rain stops. That’s important because standing water would invite mosquitoes to breed.

Goodwill’s rain gardens also have assorted native plants, such as yucca and sabal minor.

There’s also a bioswale in the middle of the parking lot planted with scouring rush and flanked by parking spaces with permeable concrete, meaning the rainwater can seep through.

It’s the first project in Charleston to allow bioswales in the required buffers, Kramer says.

“The is a big step forward for the city,” he says. “You always have these requirements. How do you design something within the requirements and still be creative with it?”

The landscape changes with the seasons and looks like a set of wetlands that might have existed there long before someone decided to build. That’s a clear contrast from a typical detention pond that always looks manmade, even when there’s no sprinkler jet in the middle.

“The whole thing was designed to keep its rural character,” Kramer says.

It complements the simple vernacular design of the brick building, with its metal roof and storm shutters.

The choice of plants was driven partly by what would look good and partly by what would thrive with minimum maintenance. “We’re treating aesthetics and ecology as equals,” he says.

While rain gardens require regular weeding at first, that eases after the native plants grow large enough to crowd out weeds.

“It doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance as mowing the grass all the time,” he adds.

In the rear, the Goodwill site features an appealing “living fence,” a screen of yellow jessamine and coral honeysuckle instead of wood or masonry. A line of deciduous trees completes it.

The Goodwill project was developed by Piedmont Companies Inc. and designed by Dennis Williams of Williams Design in Lincolnton, N.C. The contractor was David E. Looper & Co., while the civil engineer was by EarthSource Engineering of Mount Pleasant.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.