The 3,000-acre area around the old Navy base in North Charleston has been named a top 10 cottage community in the nation by Cottage Living magazine for its adaptive reuse of existing buildings and in-fill development.
"At North Charleston's historic core ... is a critical 3,000-acre zone that by the 1990s had mounting problems, including deteriorating prefab-home neighborhoods, rundown public housing projects, outdated utilities and a decommissioned Navy yard," Cottage Living magazine said.
"Today, those 3,000 acres — dubbed Noisette, after an 18th-century botanist — are being reshaped in a massive effort that may indeed result in a model new city, where sustainability and quality of life are the top priorities," the magazine said of the community's No. 9 ranking.
Cottage Living's criteria include styles of homes with unifying design elements and walkable streets, the people who live there and worked to change the area, the concepts behind the changes and the uniqueness of the homes.
"We look at quality of space rather than quantity of space," said Lindsay Bierman, executive editor of Cottage Living. He said the magazine was so impressed that it might build a show house in 2009 in I'On's Mixson Avenue project.
"It puts us in a category North Charleston is not accustomed to being in," Mayor Keith Summey said. "While we are still a leading industrial and business community, what we are doing for development and redevelopment is being recognized as being a good place to live. It's come a long way from where we have been."
It started seven years ago when the city targeted five severely blighted areas: the old war-era houses at Century Oaks and John C. Calhoun Homes near Park Circle; the state's largest public housing project at North Park Village between Rivers and Spruill avenues; the rundown Garco mill village north of Olde North Charleston's then-struggling business district; and the mothballed Charleston Naval Base.
"These were cancers to the community in that they were not only detrimental to themselves in property values, but they were also affecting surrounding properties," Summey said. "Nothing worked, so we went to radical surgery and tore them all down."
Oak Terrace Preserve, formerly Century Oaks, is now home to the first phase of 374 new environmentally friendly homes. Mixson Avenue, formerly John C. Calhoun Homes, is starting to sprout in the initial phase of 950 housing units. Horizon Village, formerly North Park Village, has nearly finished its 484 housing units.
The old Garco plant near Olde North Charleston is scheduled to be transformed into shops, residences and offices, and the Noisette Co. plans to redevelop 350 acres of the old Navy base into water basins, businesses and thousands of housing units.
Also, Clemson University's planned Restoration Institute around the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley promises to bring thousands of jobs to the former Navy base, further transforming the area that extends from Filbin Creek to Reynolds Avenue.
North Charleston will officially announce the magazine's ranking at 10:30 a.m. today at City Hall at 4900 LaCross Road.