Special to the Post and Courier

They’re miles apart in both distance and price point, but Carnes Crossroads in Goose Creek and Daniel Island north of the Charleston peninsula share some similarities in terms of street layout, architecture and landscape design. That’s not by accident — for both communities; it was all part of the master plan.

Quite literally, given that both are master planned communities, although started decades apart. Daniel Island was founded in the early 1990s, when developments that combined residential and commercial aspects were a rarity in the Charleston region. Carnes Crossroads is one of several newer master planned communities, which are becoming more popular as the outer limits of the metro area are being pushed farther up Interstate 26.

“Especially areas like Summerville, that are growing so much as you add people and families, they add the conveniences you need and want every day,” said Julie Dombrowski, who manages Carnes Crossroads for DI Development Company, which also built Daniel Island. “So I do feel like it’s a good model for a growing area to responsibly create — not just homes, but also the services and amenities that people need to live their lives.”

A master planned community is a large-scale residential neighborhood with not only standard amenities, like a clubhouse and swimming pool, but also recreational facilities like parks, a commercial component, and perhaps even schools or other elements. While several such neighborhoods like Park West and Carolina Park exist in northern Mount Pleasant, they’ve truly taken root in the north area, thanks to a combination of increased industrial development and greater availability of land.

Summerville is now “moving more toward the middle” of the Charleston area, said Cassie Cataline, marketing director at Nexton, a master planned community in Summerville. “We’re kind of smack in the middle of Volvo, Mercedes and Boeing. I think infrastructure and access to major employment centers is always going to be a driving force in where people live, and … easy access to those jobs is certainly helpful.”

Small-town feel

Carnes Crossroads has 200 single-family homes built or nearing completion, with a capacity for around 5,000. There’s also an expanding commercial development fronting the neighborhood at the intersection of highways 17A and 176, currently with restaurants and an ice cream shop. There are medical providers, a swim club, and even a 1900s-era barn that’s been renovated as a site for community events. Northwood Academy, a private school, relocated to the community in 2017.

“The overall goal is to create a place that gets better as each different component is added,” said Dombrowski. “You see it slowly start to come together not only for the residents who live there, but also for the people who work there. You create at the beginning this place that has kind of a small-town feel, for everyone who works and lives and plays there.”

It’s a similar story at Nexton, which has 600 single-family residences, with a capacity for 6,500. Developed by Newland, the community features three different neighborhoods and eight home builders, an onsite elementary school opened in 2015, a dog park and swim club, medical providers and multiple commercial districts. One, Nexton Square, is set to open in 2019, with Taco Boy and Hall’s Chophouse among its planned 20-plus retailers.

Most master planned communities also have a considerable amount of “programming,” events like game nights designed to bring residents together. “It puts in a framework for people to get to know each other,” Cataline said, “especially people who are new to the area.”

Half of Nexton’s residents are from outside the Charleston area, she added, which may play into another hallmark of master planned communities: trail systems, which prospective residents typically put at the top of their wish lists, likely stemming from a desire to take advantage of the region’s climate.

“Trails are the No. 1 amenity,” Cataline added. “That’s from our market research among all of our communities. They just offer a great way to get to the schools, get to the retail, or get to house to house. It’s a nice way to meet your neighbor, out biking or dog walking. It’s important to have that outdoor element, especially here in the Lowcountry, when there’s so much time to spend outside.”

Accessibility to everything

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From Park West to Nexton to Carnes Crossroads and Cane Bay Plantation, more and more master planned communities are bringing retail, recreational, and large-scale residential elements together in a single development. The alternative is what’s known as a boutique lifestyle community, such as Bennett’s Bluff on James Island, with just 65 home sites.

Such lifestyle neighborhoods are smaller, with relatively fewer amenities, and strictly residential. They can also be more expensive, depending on their location. Bennett’s Bluff starts in the $500,000s, which is where Nexton and Carnes Crossroads (which start in the $200,000s) top out. But its community is the James Island community at large, and its calling card is proximity.

Located off Fort Johnson Road on a finger of Clark Sound and next to a youth soccer complex, Bennett’s Bluff is seven miles from Folly Beach and five miles from downtown Charleston.

“Because the area is completely developed, you know where you are and what’s around,” said Stephanie Windon, marketing director for Sabal Homes, which developed Bennett’s Bluff. “You don’t have to worry about whether a grocery store is going in down the street — it’s already there. The accessibility to everything the region has to offer is phenomenal.”

Master planned communities, though, clearly have some momentum in the north area, where their location near Charleston’s industrial giants has helped feed the need for more affordable housing in the region. And with Volvo pushing the limits of the metro area up to Ridgeville, there’s room for more of these giant residential and commercial developments designed to provide a little of something for everyone.

“Master planned communities offer an environment where it’s easy to meet people and get involved in the community and what’s going on,” Dombrowski said. “It’s not just people closing their doors when they pull into their driveway.”