It’s been a dozen years since plans for the West Ashley Circle at Bees Ferry Road and Glenn McConnell Parkway were first laid out, but that project is still very much alive, and should be under construction next year.
The plan calls for building a ring of roads around the busy intersection of the parkway and Bees Ferry Road, creating several ways to avoid the parkway intersection itself.
“The circle should help with the traffic,” said Wally Jack, president of the Grande Oaks neighborhood association.
Development is expected to follow as the circle opens up land for development. The result could be a commercial hub, or a mini-downtown as city planners describe it. And some day, the parkway itself could be extended to the west.
“It will have the ability to be extended westward, but right now there are no plans for that, because the development is not on the table,” said Don Brown, director of Charleston’s Capital Project Division.
The first quadrant of the circle has been in place for years, primarily serving a Walmart.
Completing the circle is a $5 million project, paid for with Charleston County’s special half-percent sales tax. The city of Charleston handled much of the design work, and the county will oversee construction.
“We have a verbal approval on all the permits,” Brown said. “We’re just waiting for the paperwork.”
Just last week, the county decided to award the job to Banks Construction, which is currently handling the $32 million Bees Ferry Road widening project. The idea is to have the company get to work on the circle as soon as the widening project is done in 2014.
“Since they are already out there it makes sense,” said Devri DeToma, the county’s construction project manager. “My best guess is that (the circle) would be completed by June 2015.”
Part of the plan is to connect a new shopping area that the circle will create to Grande Oaks Boulevard, giving direct access to residents of the huge Grande Oaks development, without the need to go onto Bees Ferry Road.
Jack said the project has been a long time coming.
“Back in 2005 the city had pictures of it on their website,” he said.
Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said the circle idea came out of a 2001 community planning exercise hosted by the state Department of Transportation.
He said the circle concept replaced what could have been a traditional, huge traffic interchange.
“It basically distributes those (traffic) movements to different intersections,” Keane said. “The second piece was that the circle itself would be designed as a slower, pedestrian-friendly street — the main street for a downtown in that location.”
During the housing boom, plans also called for Glenn McConnell Parkway to be extended beyond the circle, as a two-lane road that would connect to Village Green and a big new development called Long Savannah. The developers of Long Savannah had agreed to pay to extend the road, but Long Savannah went dark when the housing market collapsed, and the land went back to the original owners, putting the timeline for extending the parkway in doubt.
“As soon as somebody picks up Long Savannah and starts moving with it again, that will be one of the first things we discuss,” Keane said. “I have a feeling that discussion will pick up again in the not-too-distant future.”
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.