A housing boom in N. Chas.

Jason Skerritt, 9, and his sister Scarlet Skerritt play in their backyard that backs up to a yet undeveloped section of the McKewn neighborhood in North Charleston Friday.

North Charleston’s population could soon grow by several thousand as a plan to extend the city’s reach into Dorchester County and encourage residential development there bears out.

Like many stories of development, this one began with a road.

In 2005 the city and Centex Homes agreed to work together to extend Patriot Boulevard all the way to Palmetto Commerce Parkway. The city, Centex and Dorchester County all chipped in for the road, which used to end at Wescott Boulevard.

In the same agreement, North Charleston agreed to annex hundreds of acres that the extension of Patriot Boulevard would bisect in Dorchester County, and allow up to 2,400 new homes there.

The housing market meltdown began a few years later and stalled those planned homes, but roofs are rising today at a brisk pace.

“It’s growing now,” said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. “We’re getting a lot of new houses back there.”

The Patriot Boulevard extension created a direct connection from Palmetto Commerce Parkway, and all the new industry there, to Ashley Phosphate Road. Boeing Corp’s aircraft interiors plant and Daimler’s Sprinter van assembly factory are both at the intersection of Patriot Boulevard and Palmetto Commerce Parkway.

Nearby, the Dorchester 2 School District built Joseph R. Pye Elementary School on the newer section Patriot Boulevard, at a cost of about $15 million. The school, which opened in August 2001, sits on 25 acres of land acquired from Centex.

Now, with the housing market in recovery, 1,290 new homes and 320 apartments are planned along the road. The land has been divided and is being developed by multiple companies including Centex, Lennar, and HH Hunt.

“There’s growth all over the city, but it’s certainly concentrated in that area,” said Gwen Moultrie, director of the North Charleston Planning and Zoning Department.

About 200 homes have been built so far, all of them in McKewn by Centex, on the north side of Patriot Boulevard. North Charleston says 732 homes are planned on that side of Patriot Boulevard.

Across the street, HH Hunt’s 320-unit Abberly Crossing apartment complex is well under construction, and on the largest undeveloped piece of the development site Lennar is finalizing plans to build 558 homes in a development called Coosaw Preserve.

“We’re turning the engineers loose to start designing the boulevard,” said Frank Finlaw, director of land for Lennar, referring to the main road through Coosaw Preserve. “We hope to be putting shovels in the ground late this year or early next year.”

Add up the development plans and there could be 1,610 new houses, townhomes and apartments under way. That’s well below the 2,400 homes allowed by the development agreement, but enough to add several thousand people to North Charleston’s population of about 102,000 and fill many seats at Pye Elementary.

“The world has changed drastically in our business since the time of the development (agreement),” said Finlaw. “There were some things we changed, and things we have frankly upgraded.”

“We don’t have any multi-family in there, the lots are deeper than they might have been, and we are creating neighborhoods,” he said.

Finlaw said having larger lots than originally planned will also create more distance between the new homes and those in existing neighborhoods. The site abuts Coosaw Creek to the south, and the Parkwood and Wheatstone sections of the Farms at Wescott to the west.

“This was planned, and it’s good to see it going again,” said Moultrie. “It’s great for the economy.”

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.

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