HICKS COLUMN: North Chuck more than a walk in the Park Circle

A lot of folks around here never thought they'd live to see North Charleston make The New York Times Travel section.

The crime briefs, maybe.

But there it was on Sunday — a short pictorial heralding Cork, EVO and the South of Broadway Theater Company, among others. The city that for far too long was the butt of all those Lowcountry jokes had finally arrived.

Of course, The Times' version of North Charleston only runs along East Montague between Jenkins and O'Hear.

That's the way it goes these days — Park Circle and the Olde Village are hot and hip, North Chuck's version of South Beach. Well, South Beach with PBR. But you've got to wonder if the rest of the city is a little jealous of all the attention focused on one neighborhood.

Nah, says Mayor Keith Summey. The Circle is just a popular spot right now. And it's not like the city is ignoring its less-hip neighborhoods.

Times a-changin'

For years, Park Circle didn't pay for itself.

Most of the houses were appraised at less than $75,000, and many of the residents got senior discounts. The city didn't make enough off the place to cover the cost of its services. To survive, the city had to annex north.

Funny how times change.

Two decades ago, North Chuck was a city of 60,000. It lost 11,000 people when the Navy base closed, and that looked like the death knell for a town once known for sailors, trailers and industrial sites.

But it may have been the best thing that ever happened to North Charleston. Today, the city tops 100,000 in population. Most of the sailors are gone, the trailers are on their way out and the industrial sites are going green and decidedly modern.

At the same time, the North Charleston Police Department has made the city a lot safer place to be. There's still work to be done in some neighborhoods, but it's getting better.

Park Circle may be the poster child, but slowly the whole city is catching on. “People are figuring out we're not only a good bargain,” Summey says, “but we're a good place to live.”

A final incentive?

North Charleston is trying to spread the love around.

It has built a new ballpark up Dorchester Road that will not only serve as a gathering place for locals but also hopefully lure in a lot of softball tournaments.

At the same time, it's leveraged a potentially huge deal with Shipwatch Square and the old Navy base hospital that it hopes is going to turn into a revitalization of lower Rivers Avenue.

Summey says if the city has to subsidize a grocery store down there, it'll do it — it's a food desert. They're getting used to that routine in North Chuck. Incentives have become a way of life. “Unlike a lot of communities, we've had to entice the growth,” Summey says.

Maybe all this attention on Park Circle will help, and the city won't have to work as hard to attract people and businesses to town.

And then they can focus on making the rest of North Charleston just as nice as Centre Pointe and Park Circle.



Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.

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