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Theo Broughton and Chris Daniels with L&W Supply drop off building material at a new businesses next to Craft & Canvas on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

The mix of restaurants and breweries concentrated on a bustling street in Park Circle is spilling south onto another North Charleston corridor.

For years, Spruill Avenue had one of worst reputations of any road in the Lowcountry; it was seen as a hotbed for drug sales, prostitution and other criminal activity.

But the roughly 3-mile-long avenue has seen a wave of revitalization in recent years with the arrival of new eateries and retail shops.

There's more on the way.

But a potential roadblock to the area's success could be the road itself. City leaders want ownership of the road to establish on-street parking spaces and dedicated bike lanes. They are waiting on the S.C. Department of Transportation to decide whether it will relinquish ownership of the avenue to the municipality.

In the meantime, city officials are working to acquire empty lots to facilitate the growth. They hope the entire corridor between East Montague and Reynolds avenues can become a more bike-and-pedestrian-friendly hub with plenty of places to shop and eat.

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A bicyclist rides by Lava Salon on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Change and affordability

Spruill's story has been intertwined for decades with that of the former Charleston Naval Base, which sits just to the east. When the base closed down in 1996, many communities along Spruill suffered. Today, several abandoned buildings and empty lots still linger, reminders of its recent struggles.

Mayor Keith Summey and other city officials said it's always been part of their plan for East Montague's redevelopment to spread out.

Enticed by North Charleston's affordability and at the encouragement of City Council members, small business owners began to set up shop. Within the past decade, some abandoned buildings and lots on Spruill Avenue have seen new use.

Today, the northern tip of the thoroughfare that runs across Noisette Creek features restaurants like The CODfather, Proper Fish & Chips, and Sesame Burgers and Beer, along with a cigar shop and floral design space.

Firefly Distillery and Holy City Brewing are on the way.

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Michael Murray and Jerome Robinson work on construction on the new Holy City Brewery near Spruill Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Summey said something similar has also begun to take place near Spruill's southern end in the city of Charleston. On Meeting Street, Blu Gorilla Tattoo and Lowcountry Local First have taken up residence.

“I think they’ll eventually meet in the middle," Summey said.

The communities in the middle are still waiting on the progress to reach them. Tiffany Haynes, who lives in Chicora-Cherokee, noted that her area still desperately needs a grocery store, but she welcomed Spruill's rejuvenation and hopes it eventually reaches her.

“This area has been dry," she said.

Still, some say the area is a lot further than it was a decade ago. City officials acknowledged Spruill's longtime reputation for criminal activity. Small nightclubs that had more than their share of police calls have since closed their doors, said Councilman Bob King. He feels that the area has moved beyond that.

Summey agreed, stating that he believes the neighborhoods along Spruill are safer than they've been in years.

Longtime North Charleston resident Gayle Frampton, 81, welcomes the change. Frampton, who serves as the neighborhood president for North East Park Circle, said the new, mom-and-pop shops help create a family-friendly atmosphere in the community.

She likes the fact that places like CODfather offer affordable meals.

“Working people can’t afford to pay high-dollar prices for a little bit of ," she said.

Affordability remains a priority on the corridor that runs through a handful of low-income communities that are current focal points for redevelopment.

Reynolds Avenue has welcomed Quan's on King and the Alliance for Full Acceptance, aiming to return the once-thriving business district to its former glory. Simultaneously, nonprofit Metanoia has worked to establish affordable homes.

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New businesses have been developing and gaining popularity along Spruill Avenue within the last few years in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Street ownership

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North Charleston is one of several municipalities that have asked DOT to relinquish ownership of a state-owned road.

The city wants to own both Spruill and Reynolds avenues so it can more directly shape their future, with changes such as more on-street parking, better bike lanes, and other changes to make the roads more urban, more pedestrian-friendly.

Several years ago, Summey convinced the state and Charleston County to put Spruill on a road diet. With the base closed and Spruill's traffic load lessened, the road was repaved and restriped from four lanes of traffic to only two, not including the center turn lane.

More changes would be crucial for the road, where some businesses on small lots have trouble accommodating their customers, especially those arriving by car.

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Kelly Avery works on Casey Parrish's hair at Lava Salon Thursday morning, Aug. 22, 2019, in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Some merchants are concerned what will happen as more companies come to the neighborhood.

Gabby Lane, manager at Roadside Blooms, a floral design and retail shop, said the business has been fairly lucky when it comes to parking. The 14-space lot the shop shares with another business is usually enough space for both of them most days.

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Susan Donnick closes up shop at FOOD on Spruill restaurant Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 21, 2019, in North Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

“That may change as these restaurants open up," said Lane, referring to an Asian restaurant and bar-and-grill under construction.

Other restaurants have found plenty of room to grow. Adam Randall, who owns CODfather, said one of the reasons he relocated from eastern Reynolds to Spruill Avenue in 2018 was because the new site has a large parking lot.

He also caught wind of the commercial activity happening in the area.

“I figured there would be nothing but good things coming this way," he said. "It kind of made business sense.”

Since moving to Spruill, he said CODfather's sales have doubled. The restaurant is also undergoing renovations to create a garden-like space outside where people can eat and hang out. 

Follow Rickey Dennis on Twitter @RCDJunior.

Rickey Dennis covers North Charleston and faith & values for the Post and Courier.