Daniel Island: An idyllic retreat-like island in Berkeley County

Twenty plus years ago, the concept of Daniel Island was a dream. 

“Before I-526 was completed in the early 90s, you couldn’t get to this property without going all the way up to Mount Pleasant, Highway 41 and coming in, or getting on a boat,” said Julie Dombroski, Communications Director of the Daniel Island Development Company. “Even though the property was in the middle of the region, it wasn’t accessible and it was used for farming, cattle ranching and as a hunting retreat.” 

In 1947, the Guggenheim family purchased a big chunk of what is now Daniel Island. Harry Frank Guggenheim used it as his family’s personal retreat for the aforementioned purposes. Over time, Guggenheim set up the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and upon his death, the land was deeded to the foundation and the idea of a master-planned community was born. 

“Mayor Joe Riley annexed it to the City of Charleston,” Dombrowski explained. “So the whole idea of this, this planned community is that it would be an extension of Charleston and it’s what began to take shape.”

The former mayor also wanted to ensure that Daniel Island wasn’t a gated community and that it had public access to the community and its parks. Four-thousand acres of combined high land and marsh land has blossomed into an idyllic haven in which many call home. It comprises single family homes, condos, townhomes, apartments, custom homes and waterfront homesites that feature Wando River, tidal creek, golf, marsh and wooded views. Each neighborhood is designed to connect people and places, and each has its own green space or park.

“Once the development began, the investors and developers, including Frank Brumley and Matt Sloane, bought the property and got the rest of the developers to come along and here we are today,” said Jeff Leonard, VP of sales and broker-in-charge of Daniel Island Real Estate (DIRE).

DIRE, a subsidiary of the development company, once served only listings on Daniel Island, but over the last three years, it’s branched out as a full-service brokerage company, acquiring listings off the island. Leonard, who worked for DIRE in 2001 and 2002, left to manage a community in North Carolina but said he’s always been drawn to Daniel Island.

“I stayed in touch with the developers here and we came back to Daniel Island,” Leonard said. “My family and I have always had an affinity for this place.” 

Leonard said that single family homes begin in the high fives and at the top end, $4.5 million. “That’s what we see on the sale and resale side of things,” he said. “There are people who’ve invested $7-8 million in their properties, they bought them, built them and live in them.”

The majority of residents are permanent ones with a diverse mixture. Leonard said he has buyers from both coasts. He stated Daniel Island is even more attractive now that the vision of it is coming to fruition.

The newest community on Daniel Island, Captain’s Island, has three phases. Phase three is about to launch. There are 100 homesites and the neighborhood will have its own amenity clubhouse, The River Porch.

“It’s intended to feel like the Old Village or older waterfront communities,” said Dombrowski. “Even if you don’t have a waterfront property, you have access to view sand docks.”

Touring the new community with Leonard, we drove across a bridge over Ralston Creek. The views there and within were stunning. The landscaping and conservation are pristine – as initial plans of Daniel Island were and will always be – a focus on interconnecting communities while preserving what the Lowcountry is known for – beautiful oaks, waterways, nature and green spaces. 

“With the new plans to build a waterfront restaurant here (the waterfront Children’s Park) and East West Partners developing Waterfront Village, it’s really going to define the waterfront lifestyle. It allows people to come down and enjoy it any time of day.”

Leonard said he expects Captain’s Island to be completed within the next five years and pointed out a lot that has its own bridge to it. About an acre with unobstructed, gorgeous waterway views, he estimated that the price of it would be about $2.5 million.

The minimum square footage for a home in Captain’s Island is 2,500 square feet. Leonard described the community as Daniel Island’s “crown jewel.” The architecture of the homes are varied incorporating both traditional and modern elements -- such as crisp white exteriors, grey-blue tinned roofs and large windows trimmed in black. Many of the Lowcountry’s most renowned builders are responsible for the custom homes.

Developers Frank Brumley and Matt Sloane aptly summed up the Daniel Island community: “Thoughtfully done, tastefully done…it feels like a small town is supposed to feel.” 

Former Mayor Riley added: “The parks and public spaces define Daniel Island. It’s even better than I had hoped.” 

Condo Living

“Daniel Island is nearly fully built-out,” said Kristen Whitehead of Keller Williams (KW). “It has so many opportunities for an active lifestyle – golf, boating, shopping and there are events throughout the year.”

Whitehead and KW agent Shawn Templeton have a condo listing on Daniel Island at 134 Fairbank Oak Allee. The high-rise condominium building is right on the waterfront.

“This luxury home offers a lock-and-leave lifestyle because there is virtually no maintenance needed,” said Templeton. It affords broad views of the Wando River and into the Charleston Harbor.” 

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The two said this property, unit 403, is an ideal location on Daniel Island. “You’re steps away from restaurants and shops and a 50-foot private boat slip with electricity on the Wando River is included.”

The penthouse top-floor unit has 12-foot ceilings, private parking and walking trails nearby. The four-bedroom, four bath home has hardwoods throughout the living spaces with large windows bringing in natural light and vista views. The living area and kitchen are open and the interior present as brand new. Roomy bedrooms have carpeting and ensuite baths. Off the master, is a private entry to the back porch.

“There is a good mix of buyers in this community – from empty nesters to out-of-town buyers – they want to take advantage of waterfront living,” said Whitehead. “Fairbanks Oak Allee is a short golf cart ride to the grocery, coffee shop and the Daniel Island Golf Club.”

Templeton added, “In our experience, jetsetters who live a fast-paced lifestyle tend to prefer a penthouse or condo lifestyle without sacrificing a peaceful view or water access. This is a boater’s dream with a deep-water dock.”

The Waterfront

Many are anticipating the large, multi-use development coming to Daniel Island. East West Partners, the developer of the luxurious, 22-acre “playground” has lent their unique vision to some of the world’s most luxurious resorts, urban communities and commercial and multi-use developments. Here in the Lowcountry, their developments include the Tides in Mount Pleasant and The Gadsden, One Vendue and Gadsdenboro Park in downtown Charleston.

Miller Harper, one of the managing partners of East West Partners, said that though Daniel Island has nearly every amenity that residents could want, the addition of The Waterfront is an added bonus and one that will take full advantage of its riverfront. 

“Daniel Island is a premier destination and a well-established master-planned community,” Miller said. “One thing residents and visitors alike will benefit from is an active waterfront. The last remaining riverside parcel on Daniel Island is surrounded by water on three sides – it’s arguably Daniel Island’s best asset.”

The company broke ground on Phase 1 in July, and it’s still under construction. Miller said that the completion of Phase 1 will finish construction on the first homes and all the amenities for the community. “We want people in Phase 1 to be able to move into a complete community without waiting on amenities to come in later phases,” he said.

Taking full advantage of the property’s location was one of the development’s team primary goals.

“We’re maximizing the water’s edge,” Miller said of the development. “By partnering with the Daniel Island Town Association and Lowcountry Marina Holdings on improvements to the Waterfront Park and addition of Daniel Island Yacht Club, we were able to create a community designed to provide easy access to life on the water in Charleston.”

The Daniel Island Yacht Club will have two public docks which will provide day boat docking for access to the restaurants and retail businesses. Boat club memberships, kayak and paddle board rentals, sailing opportunities, fishing and crabbing, water transportation via the Daniel Island Ferry, special events and more are all in the works. The cost of construction of the yacht club and waterfront park is a joint investment totaling over $5.6 million. Anticipated completion is mid-2021.

The first phase will have a mix of 58 condos and townhomes. The master plan for The Waterfront has five phases and about 300 residences in what Miller defines as “appropriately scaled buildings.”

“Charleston is surrounded by water and it’s amazing when you think about how few waterfront restaurants there are in Charleston, even less that you can visit by boat,” Miller commented. “One of the most exciting additions to this community is a riverside restaurant and rooftop bar. We think we are creating a destination for not only the residents but also for those from off the island coming by boat for an hour or the day to take advantage of the waterfront lifestyle.”

That lifestyle will also include a gourmet market and various retail shops. The Waterfront residents will have access to a community pool, fitness center and a community gathering space, “The Post,” which is the community’s mail center and will house the office of the on-site property management team.

The park, located at the end of River Landing Drive, is already one of Daniel Island’s most beautiful green spaces. The renovation of it, according to Miller, will include enhanced landscaping, lighting, seating areas, swings with a view, a hammock garden, a water feature, event space and children’s play equipment.

The planning of the community has been a concerted effort among experts. “Over the last three years, we’ve worked hand in hand with the design architect firm, Hart Howerton to develop the land plan and vernacular for the building design, and locally based McMillan Pazdan Smith, whose team brought the conceptual plans to life with drawings and floor plans to construction,” Miller said. 

Miller said that local interior design teams, Courtney Bishop Design and Jenny Keenan Design collaborated to pull together the interior spaces and Trident Construction (who worked with them on One Vendue Range and The Gadsden) came on board as the general contractor.

“The Waterfront will offer a lifestyle that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere,” said Miller. “It is extremely rare to have the luxury of a lock and leave lifestyle with amenities and recreation right outside your front door.”

For more information about The Waterfront, visit TheWaterfrontdi.com.


Contact Brigitte Surette at bsurette@postandcourier.com.

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