New Park West town center plan triggers concern

The new Cambridge Square development would cluster 4-story retail and apartment buildings around the traffic circle where Park West Boulevard meets Grey Marsh Road.

MOUNT PLEASANT — The Old Village isn’t the only neighborhood here experiencing anxiety over dense new development.

Residents on the northern end of town are rallying to try to turn back plans for four, 4-story multifamily units where Park West Boulevard meets Grey Marsh Road.

Greg Sidwell, who lives in Park West and has been getting the word out about the plan, said he is concerned because the traffic circle could see serious congestion but also because the buildings would be so much taller than anything else in the neighborhood.

Sidwell said he has been getting a good bit of interest about the project, even from those who live across S.C. Highway 41. “I’m just one guy who never looked at zoning until Dec. 10, when I saw this monstrosity that the developer is proposing,” he added.

The Cambridge Square project includes 262 apartments between one and three bedrooms, as well as 77 townhomes, plus about 25,000 square feet of commercial space.

Kevin Steelman, president of Park West Development, Inc., said Cambridge Square was first conceived in 2002 as the neighborhood’s town center, a retail-heavy development with 66 townhomes and about 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

That was not built, partly because of the Great Recession, and Steelman said the economics won’t support that much retail today, so the plan changed.

He said traffic studies show the new plan with more apartments and boutique retail would not generate nearly as many trips, and the 4-story buildings would be set back from the right of way by 25 feet. “You’re not going to feel like The Boulevard (apartments on Coleman Boulevard), where it’s right up on the sidewalk. It will have a softer feel.”

Still, Sidwell said he also is concerned because there are almost 130 other homes and townhomes being proposed within 2 miles of the traffic circle.

The request to approve the concept of Cambridge Square and to amend the Dunes West Planned Development District goes first to the town’s Planning Commission, though Town Council will make the final decision.

And while the commission won’t consider the matter until Wednesday, some officials already are skeptical.

Councilman Chris O’Neal, new chair of council’s Planning and Development Committee, said he doesn’t think the surrounding area has the infrastructure to support it.

“If you ride through there in the morning when the kids are going to school, the traffic backs up horribly,” he said. “I think the residents have the right to be upset and I hope the Planning Committee and council make sure this area is taken care of and the citizens feel like we’re listening.”

Mayor Linda Page said she is wary of any attempts in general to change commercial zoning to residential.

“I support the commercial zoning because I want this to be a work-live community,” she said. “If we keep changing to residential, that’s not going to happen.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.