Westward home Buyers tracking across Ashley River to forge new frontiers in close-knit neighborhoods

Godfrey Park is a secluded enclave near the Ashley River Bridge in burgeoning West Ashley.

When Allison Merrick and Dan Bradley crossed the country to live in Charleston, they purposefully searched “inside the Cow” for a home to buy.

The twirling, elevated Coburg icon on Savannah Highway was “the outer limit of where we were looking,” Merrick says.

That was in 2007: Inside the Cow consisted of the stock of leafy neighborhoods between the Ashley River and St. Andrews Plaza such as South Windermere, Westwood, Avondale, Old Windemere and Moreland.

“When we were shopping for a house, we were looking for something that gives us more space and flexibility than downtown,” Merrick says. They also desired a subdivision with sidewalks and a house with a decent-sized yard.

Eventually, the husband and wife settled on a 1,572-square-foot residence on Lyttleton Street, one of the larger houses in Byrnes Downs, an area rich with young families. It’s a short ride to downtown by car, and 15 minutes or less by bike, Merrick says.

Now eight years later with a daughter who turned 5 on July 4th, West Ashley native Bradley and San Franciscan Merrick are looking to move. Their house lists for sale at $425,000. The couple remain bullish on West Ashley.

“There’s a lot of attention,” she says, citing planned city of Charleston upgrades to the Citadel Mall area and expectations for a dedicated bike lane on the Ashley River Bridge. Merrick believes it’s about time. “West Ashley has been neglected for the past 20 years.”

Merrick’s and Bradley’s pleasant stay in a hip, colorful brick home somewhat removed from Savannah Highway traffic and close to the area’s multi-mile walking and biking “Greenway” showcases West Ashley’s sometimes overlooked appeal. The amorphous territory from the Holiday Inn Riverview to historic plantations on Ashley River Road may be a mish-mash of new-home and older neighborhoods, apartment dwellings and acres of retail outlets, but it’s not without widespread interest from residential shoppers.

According to Charleston Multiple Listing Service figures, there were 328 home-sales closings in West Ashley inside Interstate 526 since the start of the year, says Meg Kandik, agent with Holy City Real Estate/Chucktown Homes.

The Realtor, who represents customers across the Charleston area, can speak from personal experience. She’s lived three places since graduating from college, all west of the Ashley: Plantation Apartments, West Oak Forest and now Grand Oaks off Bees Ferry Road. “I’m a West Ashley local,” she quips. “It’s a great area.”

Kandik can also talk from a real estate perspective. “South Windermere and Windemere are on fire,” she says, citing the nearby subdivisions’ convenience to downtown Charleston. Still, inventories are tight closer to the peninsula, where neighborhoods date back 50 to 70 years. “There’s not as many new homes. You can’t create new land,” she says.

Moving toward the West Ashley fringes, “you are going to get more for your money,” Kandik says. Mungo Homes is unwrapping a new-home community off S.C. Highway 61, and the once-dormant Long Savannah residential development expects to ramp up past Main Road. Poplar Grove brought in three new-home builders after years of limited growth with custom designers. Located along Davison and County Line roads, Poplar Grove is situated “on the cusp of West Ashley,” Kandik says.

The real estate agent lists 1821 Gippy Lane for sale in West Ashley Plantation across from the Jewish Community Center. The four-bedroom house boasts a couple of perks for the right buyer: an attached apartment and a finished workshop. She’s also showing a property on 2nd Avenue off Wappoo Road, a neighborhood she describes as “like Wagener Terrace.”

She thinks West Ashley’s going to continue to be popular over the years “with all those (manufacturing) companies coming to the area. Plus, we’re close to the beach.”

Walter Barton of ReMax Pro Realty is listing agent on a house on Cessna Avenue south of Savannah Highway. It’s priced at $169,900. The brick ranch is “an entry level product that I thought was pretty competitive because the ones I see around $190,000 (need) a new roof.” The Cessna Avenue home, by contrast, has new shingles and other upgrades. “I have a kitchen that needs remodeling but people (like) to put a mark on” a house they purchase, he says.

Barton agrees that West Ashley “may have been the forgotten side of town. James Island was the red-headed stepchild but West Ashley has replaced it,” he says. Indeed, West Ashley continues to grow in “slow increments.” But recent interest from city fathers may change the speed of expansion. “All the design charrettes going on are the right decision,” he says. West Ashley’s future has become “part of the mayoral race.” Still, Barton doesn’t see change overnight. “Things like that tend to move slowly.”

A popular feature in neighborhoods closer to the Ashley River involves renovating homes that aren’t historic but showcase long lineages. Kathy Coulthard of Keller Williams Realty believes that’s the case with 16 Moore Drive in Westwood. The 2,300-square-foot house reveals a basement. At 1,400 square feet, it’s not included in the official square footage because it lacks heating or cooling.

Although built in the 1950s, the Moore Drive house has undergone updates in the past dozen years to doors, windows and walls. Owners added a second floor so that an original two-bedroom, two-bath home now takes in four bedrooms and three baths. There’s also a deck added last year.

“It’s a great little house,” Coulthard says. The owner’s asking $435,000.

Andrea Woodfield, agent on Merrick’s and Bradley’s Lyttleton Street home, lives in what she calls an “original dance hall” on the Ashley River in the Moreland neighborhood. “That’s definitely one of the pluses, the closeness to downtown,” she says. Citing the Byrnes Downs home for sale, she says it’s situated in an enclave that’s “quiet, neighborly, a real sense of community.”

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.