Bully for Broad Street Roadway named 1 of America’s best

Keith Sanders Milton cleans the windows of the Robison & Richard Fine Art as the Broad Street gallery prepares for today’s upcoming Art Walk.

Art dealer Nancy Robison had the choice to open her gallery this year on King Street or Broad Street.

After quick deliberation, she opted for Broad.

“We have the energy down here,” she said, showing off some funky reef-themed paintings inside her Robison and Richard Fine Art.

In a move that most of Charleston knew already, Broad Street — one of the oldest paths in the city — was designated a Top 10 Great Street for 2012 by the American Planning Association.

Broad joins Duval Street in Key West, Fla.; Fifth Avenue in New York; Shaker Boulevard in Cleveland; and Grant Street in Pittsburgh, among others, on this year’s Top 10 list.

APA singled out the 12 blocks of Broad Street for its charm, architectural heritage and diversity of uses, plus its walkability. It also noted that the route has survived a British invasion, Civil War, a killer earthquake, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes. Mayor Joe Riley agreed.

“To walk along Broad Street is to understand how the past informs the present,” he said.

The route was originally set up to be a center of Charleston’s administration and commerce when the city began to take shape in 1680.

Today, Broad is a mix of law offices, galleries, restaurants, homes, churches and historic sites. Colonial Lake is at one end and the Old Exchange Building at the other.

Near the middle, where Broad intersects with Meeting Street, is the Four Corners of Law, where the Charleston County Courthouse, the U.S. District Courthouse and post office, City Hall, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church sit.

Jeff Soule, director of outreach at APA, said much of the outward charm of Broad Street is that it has kept its identity under the pressure of growth over the decades, partly because of the city’s early historic zoning ordinance protection and the 1931 creation of the Board of Architectural Review.

“What we are trying to say is that planning is a behind-the-scenes activity,” he said, “that results in these great avenues.”

Other locals said they recognize the same traits the APA saw, including Rick Maupin, manager of the Blind Tiger pub.

Market Street is a “tourist trap,” he said, while Broad Street isn’t.