BEHRE COLUMN: Mt. Pleasant zoning aims for people-friendly roads
MOUNT PLEASANT — Call it Suburbia 2.0 — or maybe 3.0.
A handful of new developments along Coleman and Ben Sawyer boulevards shows that what some have derided as sprawl can be remade into something better — one building at a time.
The town has a history of being a leader in this area. It was among the first to require architectural review for new buildings and major renovations along its busiest streets.
That led not only to more interesting buildings but also better landscaping, more modest signs and pedestrian friendly touches along the town's most well traveled roads.
But the town's new zoning — one that encourages “activity zones” — is taking things a step further.
The most recent example can be seen at the new pocket park next to the Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union at 847 Coleman — former site of a Burger King.
Designed by landscape architect J.R. Kramer of Remark Studio, the park offers a small shady space with large timber benches, a nice break for anyone on foot or on bike. Rows of palmetto, live oak and columnar tulip trees add an appealing sculptural quality.
The bank building, by Level5 architects of Atlanta, is two stories tall along the street, much like the new Juanita Greenberg's restaurant at 410 Coleman.
That restaurant — which offers some outdoor dining along the sidewalk and along a side porch —is among the first projects done under the town's new rules to make Coleman, Ben Sawyer, Johnnie Dodds and Chuck Dawley boulevards more appealing to those not in cars — more like Main Streets than simply commuting roads peppered with offices and shops.
“It is trying to get more activity and more density there, and it's something that takes time,” Town Planning Director Christiane Farrell says. “This doesn't happen even in five years.”
Farrell says Coleman has been important to the town historically, and the new rules are designed to restore its central role.
The zoning allows property owners to build slightly higher and denser and gives them reductions in buffers and setbacks.
In return, the town not only wants good architecture but also activity zones — places where people can eat, shop or simply hang out along the street.
The town also led by example in creating the farmers market sheds along Coleman next to Moultrie Middle School three years ago.
Since then, the private sector is following suit. A new terrace outside Yobe frozen yogurt, decorated with umbrellas and tables, is a small example of the kind of activity zone the town wants to see. The terrace is made from pervious concrete so it doesn't pose a drainage problem.
And the best example so far can be found just down Ben Sawyer Boulevard from Yobe, where the Triangle Char & Bar has a series of tables and chairs, along with flags and greenery separating the diners from the passing traffic.
Kramer, who worked on that project as well, applauds the town for the change.
“They're really thinking long-term how things are linked up to create an urban pedestrian feeling,” Kramer said.
It's not exactly urban, but it's certainly a better kind of suburban.
“We're not trying to recreate something that's in some other place,” Farrell says. “It's taking what we've got and being able to enhance it.”
And now, with the addition of some onstreet parking, these places could get better still.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771