Residents play tennis and swim laps at a popular amenities center in The Plantation at Stono Ferry, an established 325-home village 20 minutes southwest of Charleston.
They haven’t had much reason as of late, though, to cross an adjacent multi-acre grassy spread bordered by oaks and pines, save to co-opt the land as an oversized park for dogs or to watch the infrequent polo match played there.
But on Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., the massive field will be filled again by horses, riders, trainers, owners and hundreds of fans including many neighborhood homeowners. They will be attending the Charleston Cup steeplechase races, a Lowcountry staple for 17 seasons until an abrupt end in 2003.
The re-start of the annual event on the new Ascot Course comes at an up-and-down time for Stono Ferry, a scenic, 30-year-old neighborhood a couple of miles north of the town of Hollywood.
Last month, the The Links at Stono Ferry was named South Carolina Golf Course of the Year for 2011-12 by the S.C. Golf Course Owners Association. It is also the College of Charleston golf team’s home course.
Both the course, which is public but offers memberships with perks such as preferred tee times and exclusive practice areas; and a horse-riding center within the neighborhood changed ownership in the past decade. Jeff Combs and his family bought the stables and neighborhood resident Pat Barber purchased the course in 2002.
Resurrection of the popular steeplechase races is another crowning achievement.
At the same time, Stono Ferry’s real estate market has been spotty. Sales fluctuate from year to year — there have been just a handful of sales thus far in 2011 — while prices have declined each year since 2007.
That hasn’t deterred Bud Poston and Rob Sturm of ERA Tides Realty, which has an office in the Stono Ferry course clubhouse. Poston, who lives in Stono Ferry, notes that a number of homes are for sale. They variously back up to the golf course, overlook the Intracoastal Waterway, edge up to Logbridge tidal creek or sport land tracts as large as two-and-a-half acres. The properties are priced as much as 40 percent below their peak values.
“I think the steeplechase will bring exposure,” says Poston, who heads the neighborhood ERA office. The equestrian center at Stono Ferry, which is the race director, “decided this was a good time (to bring back the races).” The Charleston Cup has always fit the schedule of steeplechase riders who go from here to Aiken and other horse-riding hot spots. “People ask about it all the time.”
From a real estate standpoint, Stono Ferry has a lot to offer. The neighborhood has about 325 finished single-family homes. Another 75-80 lots are left to be built out.
There’s a variety of home ages, many in the 1990s to present day: at least three homes are under construction. Houses range from 1,800 to more than 4,000 square feet and are on lots sized from 1/3 acre to 2.5 acres.
The 74-unit Ironwood townhome village, on the eastern edge of Stono Ferry, offers dwellings with underneath garages built from 2003 to 2005 and sized from 1,730 to 2,145 square feet. One townhome on the market is priced at $274,900.
Stono Ferry is about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. A boon to the neighborhood occurred when a shopping center, anchored by a Publix supermarket, opened in 2009 a few miles up the road. “That took away some of the ‘“too far away’ (feelings),” he says.
With the mix of sizes and styles, the community has attracted a variety of buyers: “retirees, people working, young families.”
Stono Ferry is a friendly place, with the homeowners association and other groups sponsoring at least one party or other gathering a month. “You get to know your neighbors,” Poston says.
To reach Stono Ferry from downtown Charleston, travel over the Ashley River Bridge heading straight onto Savannah Highway (U.S. Highway 17 South). Stay on the highway through West Ashley. From the Main Road intersection, continue close to four miles and bear left on S.C. Highway 162 toward Hollywood. Go two miles or so and make a left on Stono Ferry Course into the neighborhood.
Neighborhood: Stono Ferry
Location: Charleston County
Phone: 843-697-3786, 843-478-2404 (ERA Tides Realty)
Hours: By appointment