In many ways, they are inseparable.

There's South Windermere, the shopping center. The 1950s-era Folly Road plaza has undergone a 21st-century face-lift while attracting customers to eclectic stores and eateries such as Earth Fare, Med Bistro, Starbucks, Urban Nirvana and Haddrell's Point tackle shop.

Then there's South Windermere, the neighborhood. The 300-home village, just northwest of the plaza, likewise has a long heritage, and similarly is going through a modernization.

South Windermere subdivision, which traces its roots to 1931, essentially emerged a half-century ago as an early suburban community of moderate-sized brick homes on marsh and woods. Another wave of pricier houses rose along Wappoo Creek starting 15-25 years ago.

Now the community is again going through a transformation, as buyers are attracted to its quiet streets and proximity to Charleston's peninsula, just a few minutes' drive away. Tidy ranch houses have been remodeled with elegant bedrooms, amenity-rich kitchens and wide decks, and an upscale townhome complex opened this fall on Windermere Boulevard.

Yet even with the growth, South Windermere remains tight-knit, a blend of retirees and younger families. The magnet St. Andrews School of Math & Science is in the midst of the community on Chadwick Drive.

"It's an old-fashioned neighbor-hood, in a good way," says Saida Russell, real estate agent with Disher, Hamrick & Myers. "Children can ride their bikes and (residents can) walk to shop," she says.

"It's just friendly," notes Sandra Henry, who with husband Charlie Henry remodeled a 1950s ranch home at 21 Lord Ashley Drive as a two-story dwelling and is listing the 2,700-square-foot house at $630,000.

The Henrys opened up the inside, installing stainless steel appliances, a wet bar, vented range, granite countertops and glass cabinets in the open kitchen. They redid the three bedrooms and two baths, including affixing tile in the master bath. Hardwood floors, recessed lighting, fireplace and vaulted ceiling highlight the living room. The front door is mahogany.

"It's amazing what you can do with a '50s-style house," says Russell, who is listing a 2,081-square-foot home with renovated kitchen at 122 Chadwick Drive for $519,000.

The house has a relatively new deck with open views of pristine marsh. Ranch homes are popular with families and seniors. "Everything is one level," she says.

Along with renovations, South Windermere has some new construction, too.

Flanking the neighborhood's entry street is Windermere Townhomes, a new upscale development of 28 up and down units costing $399,000-$425,000. The three-bedroom, three-bath dwellings, built by Windermere Townhome Developers LLC, are 1,575 to 1,719 square feet. Standards are hardwood floors downstairs, stainless steel kitchen appliances, screened porches, landscaped yards and two-car garages underneath.

"We are seeing professionals (buying) as well as investors, too," says Charles S. Swanson, real estate agent with William Means Real Estate, which is marketing 15 of the townhomes. The Web site is www.windermerecharleston.com.

To reach South Windermere from downtown Charleston, cross the Ashley River Bridge to U.S. Highway 17 (Savannah Highway). Angle left onto Folly Road. Pass through the first traffic light and immediately turn right onto Windermere Boulevard. The neighborhood is ahead.

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Neighborhood

South Windermere.

Location

Charleston County.

Total homes

300.

Home sizes

1,200-5,725 square feet.

Home prices

$300,000-$1 million and up.

Typical features

--Brick, stucco exteriors or accents.

--Ranch style with some two-story homes, townhomes.

--Hardwood floors.

--Well-maintained yards.

--Wooded, marsh views.

--Porches and decks.

--Fireplaces.

--Garages.

--Large kitchens.

Property taxes

$3,609 on a $500,000 home.

Area attractions

Wappoo Creek, Charleston County Boat Landing, Ashley River, downtown Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina and hospital district, City Marina, Charleston Municipal Golf Course, Stono River, Charles Towne Landing, Citadel Mall, Atlantic Ocean, James Island County Park, Charleston Executive Airport, Interstate 26.

Distance to downtown Charleston

3 miles.

Schools

St. Andrews Elementary

Grades K-5; phone, 763-1503; enrollment, 783; certified staff, 49; PACT results, 46.9 percent of fifth-graders scored proficient or advanced on English/Language Arts, 52 percent on math, 54 percent on science and 41.7 percent on social studies.

West Ashley Middle

Grades 6-8; phone, 763-1546; enrollment, 378; certified staff, 38; PACT results, 10.4 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient or advance on English/Language Arts, 4.3 percent on math, 16.9 percent on science and 10 percent on social studies.

West Ashley High

Grades 9-12; phone, 573-1201; enrollment, 1,915; certified staff, 145; SAT results, 471 verbal and 471 math. The 942 combined score is lower than the state average (984) and the national average (1017).

Housing Trends

West Ashley inside Interstate 526:

Number of sales in the third quarter of 2007: 131 (down from 182 in the third quarter of 2006).

Average sales price: $221,300 (down from $271,700).

Median sales price: $197,900 (down from $222,000).