As more and more people move to the Charleston area, the land on which residents work and play is becoming a bit more congested. Depending on who you talk to, this growth is welcomed, while others long for the good old days.
The Charleston region is steadily growing—more than three times the national average—and there appears to be no end in sight. According to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, 28 people move to the region every day. Boeing and Roper St. Francis head the list of the largest private sector employers with 7,000 and 5,700 employees, respectively.
Charleston County’s population has grown over 16.7 percent, from 2010 to 2017, topping out at 775,000 residents according to the latest Census Bureau statistics. Charleston’s draw isn’t only its beautiful shores and historic downtown (which brought in nearly 7 million visitors in 2017 alone), it’s the new wave of industries that have chosen the Charleston region as their home base.
Charleston tourism shot up 26 percent in one year and the economic impact of that was $7.37 billion. The labor force has realized a 15.4 percent increase with 2019 forecasted to add over 10,000 more jobs. Charleston County’s unemployment rate improved drastically as well, from 30,265 in 2010 to 12,270 in 2017.
All of that growth is good news for investors, buyers and sellers. Three areas of Charleston County, downtown and the peninsula, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant, are ones that continue to expand and thrive. These areas are a lively mixture of transplants, entrepreneurs, retirees and millennials.
Downtown, the peninsula
There’s a reason why Charleston keeps bringing in the accolades from various publications and one of the driving forces of its popularity. Charleston’s “spirit” is one of genteel, down home friendliness, with just the right amount of southern sassy. Downtown’s changing landscape (literally and metaphorically) is attracting a new type of Charlestonian—one who wants world-class accommodations and international dining options.
“Every single neighborhood on the peninsula is desirable for various reasons, “ said Georgia Bell of William Means in downtown Charleston. “South of Broad, Harleston, Ansonborough, Cannonbourough and Radcliffe borough…these neighborhoods attract buyers for different reasons.”
Charleston, known as the “Paris of the South” is attracting more and more transplants, particularly from the Northeast, according to Bell.
“Charleston’s real estate market continues to thrive,” Bell said. “I think 2019 is going to be a wonderful year. With new hotels such as the Hotel Bennett and the new Publix being built, downtown and peninsula residents have access to everyday needs, amenities and the arts—the Galliard is like a European gallery…this growth unifies us.”
Downtowners have access to even more now—specifically, a larger choice for grocery shopping such as the recently opened chef’store at 1510 Meeting Street and in summer of 2019, Publix at West Edge. Trendy, modern, eclectic and recent fine dining and meeting-for-drinks places include Bourbon & Bubbles at 570 King Street; Melfi’s at 721 King Street; the Chubby Fish at 252 Coming Street, Josephine’s Wine Bar at 64 Spring Street and Tradd’s at 167 E. Bay Street.
Add new condo construction to the mix (The Gadsden at 5 Gadsdenboro Street and The Jasper at 310 Broad Street, slotted for a 2020 opening) that diverse mix keeps getting bigger and broader.
West Ashley, an area comprised of over 50 squares miles, with the notoriety of being the first settled site of Charleston in the 1600s, has evolved from a mainly agricultural area into what it is now a thriving community with several neighborhoods. It’s connected to the peninsula by two bridges and it’s the best place to live according to those who choose this area of Charleston to buy, live and play.
Carolina Bay, Grand Oaks and Bolton’s Landing are large, modern neighborhoods while Byrnes Downes, Avondale and Parkwood Estates are for those who love to put their own twist on vintage-like and/or older homes.
“I’ve lived in West Ashley for 37 years,” said Lisa Stine of Elaine Brabham and Associates, LLC. “The convenience to I-26, I-526, downtown, great shopping, hospitals and good schools are why so many choose to live here. West Ashely residents are active in their communities. The Randolph Park, WA Greenway and Bikeway, Bees Ferry Rec Center—all wonderful community places for residents.”
The recently opened retirement community, The Crossings, offers both independent and assisted living spaces and it’s located minutes from downtown and Folly Beach.
“The West Ashley Revitalization Committee has put a large amount of time and effort into the newly approved plans for West Ashley,” said Stine. “West Ashley’s residents are passionate about their community and they truly care for their neighborhood and the place they call home.”
According to Stine, several organizations such as the DuPont Station Neighborhood Coalition, have sprung up over the pasts two years. Their goal is to promote the revitalization of West Ashley, as well as sponsoring community-wide events throughout the year.
New hots spots and eateries include the Tattooed Moose, Betty Lou’s Bistro and the Cracked Egg. Charleston Stage’s West Ashley Theater satisfies cultural cravings. Look for restoration and new construction in the area’s older strip malls, especially along Savannah Highway.
The serene bedroom community of Charleston, Mount Pleasant realized tremendous growth within a short time period. In 2017, the Town of Mount Pleasant (TOMP) added a beautiful new Town Hall, designed as a community center and to house the TOMP’s government offices, including court rooms and public meeting spaces. According to the TOMP 2017 annual report, the median home price is $444,000 and the estimated per capita income has soared from $18,931 in 1990 to $46,662 in 2017. Well below the national unemployment rate of 4.40 percent, Mount Pleasant’s rate is 2.80 percent. In 2017 alone, there were 1,386 new businesses.
Parks are plentiful for residents. The Mount Pleasant Memorial Park and Palmetto County Park are large local favorites that host events throughout the year. The recently renovated Shem Creek Park has over 2,200 feet of boardwalk. The town’s location, minutes from downtown, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are just a few of the reason why the TOMP voted to slow building for 2019, since development is growing more rapidly than the infrastructure to support it.
New eateries have popped up everywhere—from south to north—the choices are diverse. Recently opened Saltwater Cowboys, Woodward Tavern, Betty’s Eatery, Butcher & The Boar, The Grits Counter and Vicious Biscuit satisfies the demand for eating without making the trek downtown.
Several new apartments complex dot the southern and northern ends of Mount Pleasant. The second Lowes opened in 2018, as well as Costco, near the Roper St. Francis Hospital. Construction of a new shopping plaza is underway near Towne Centre that includes a mixture of shopping and conveniences including a GreenWise Market, opening this year. The market, a concept of Publix will offer a “variety of organic, specialty, and traditional grocery items.” One of four in the South, Mount Pleasant’s will be 25,000 square feet.
Neighborhoods stretch from close-in communities such as the Old Village off Coleman Boulevard to ones further out on Highway 17. Carolina Park, a massive development that includes resort-like amenities, churches, schools, parks, town homes, a retirement community and single-family homes plans to open a 40,000 square foot library in May of 2019. “Mount Pleasant is a great community,” said Emily Chubb of The Boulevard Company in Mount Pleasant. “You can find whatever you need—great shopping, parks, restaurants and places to live that suit anyone—from newcomers, young singles and retirees. Plus our schools are outstanding and I only see it (Mount Pleasant) getting better. The diversity we have in our community is wonderful.”
Chubb mentioned that another small community, Pickney Farms, is breaking ground now. Located off Highway 17 and just past Long Point Road, these single-family dwellings are being built by K. Hovnanian. The neighborhood will consist of 12 acres and 30 homes. Estimated cost of homes will be from the high $400,000 to $500,000 and completion date is scheduled to be within 12-18 months.
The changing landscape of Charleston County
The landscape, sunsets and weather are what the “been heres” have loved about Charleston County their entire lives. The fact that residents have a broader choice of what to call home is a plus—but, with a challenge. Incorporating improvements in infrastructure, traffic regulation and keeping the region Lowcountry lovely are factors that residents, elected officials, developers and investors all have to consider, and work together to manage.
Charleston County Population: 401, 438
Median Age: 37.1
Largest City: Charleston with 134,875 residents
Mount Pleasant Population: 86,668
West Ashley Population: 73,769
Source: Charleston Regional Development & TownCharts