Summerville charrette presentation

WHAT: Presentation of Summerville planning findings, recommendations by Lawrence Group.

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Town Council chambers, Town Hall complex, 200 S. Main St.

SUMMERVILLE - Imagine strolling a scenic, paved walkway from this downtown's trendy Short Central side street across a pedestrian-friendly avenue to a courtyard with an alley leading to the Hutchinson Square shopping hub. Designers see it as one way to connect the somewhat disjointed six blocks of the historic shopping district.

"If that's your historic center, it should be a 'people place.' It should be about the people who use it, not the traffic passing through," said urban designer Monica Holmes, of the Lawrence Group.

But getting there - like improving opportunities in the emerging Sheep Island Road corridor to the north or redeveloping aging Oakbrook into a riverside town center to the south - won't be an easy stroll.

Those are a few of the takeaways from a weeklong "charrette," or public participation design workshop, concluded Friday by the Lawrence Group for the town of Summerville.

A formal presentation of the group's findings and recommendations will be made Thursday to town leaders and the public. Town leaders intend for the group's "visioning" plan to be blueprints for handling ongoing growth that has tripled the population in little more than a decade. The plan will detail management down to points such as closing off street lanes, reworking intersections and reusing public spaces. The recommendations will provide short-term projects to get it all started.

"There's a lot that we need," said resident and Summerville Preservation Society member Hal Rigby after viewing the group's work. "There's a wish list, things we can get. You wonder sometimes where the funding will come from." But the work, he said, has been comprehensive.

Funding is out there in grants and civic support, as well as through mechanisms such as tax increment financing districts, Holmes said. Also, businesses can profit from residents in areas such as Oakbrook who are now spending elsewhere.

The presentation will lay out some of those options. The key, she said, is targeting specific investments for specific, "doable" projects that make the biggest differences.

The massive Carnes Crossroads and Nexton developments underway to the north of town and expansive East Edisto communities planned to the south mean "Summerville is going to be in the middle of a big development sandwich," Holmes said. "There's going to be a huge need for new infrastructure and investment."

The needs on those two ends of town are far apart. In the Sheep Island Road area due for an interchange on Interstate 26 near Nexton, the demand is for office space, small businesses and housing.

In Oakbrook, the 1970s-style suburban residential/shopping center community along the Ashley River, the demand is for nothing less than "something completely different than what's there now," Holmes said - a walkable town center designed around river frontage and amenities.

The group put a team of marketing, economic development, urban design, architecture, landscape and transportation designers to work to find potential ways to make it all work.

"But it always came back to the downtown. It always came back to transportation," Holmes said. "I think I've heard more passion from people this week about their love of living in Summerville. They know change is all around and they know the town has to take action. This is an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get started. Summerville has got to get to work fast."

The town is paying $213,000 for the plan.

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