North Charleston wants ownership of two state-owned roads, aligning with the city's efforts to transform Reynolds Avenue from a street spotted with empty buildings into a commercial corridor where people can sip smoothies and snack on sandwiches.
The city has asked the S.C. Department of Transportation to relinquish ownership of Reynolds and Spruill avenues — two focal points for attracting new businesses.
Mayor Keith Summey said ownership would enable them to add on-street parking, install bike lanes, limit potential truck traffic and make the areas more pedestrian-friendly.
The mayor, who highlighted the effort in his 2019 State of the City address, said the city would have more control over the future of areas he hopes become commercial corridors.
“We’re excited to be able to work with the community and have their involvement so we can work together to accommodate the needs for the future," Summey said.
Several municipalities and counties applied to the pilot program, launched by DOT last year. The program would transfer road ownership to local governments with advanced payments from DOT to cover road maintenance for the next 40 years.
DOT officials said there is no timeline for a decision on North Charleston's request.
On Reynolds Avenue, an advantage for merchants and area residents could be limited truck traffic.
Last year, when Frontier Logistics wanted 1840 and 1850 Reynolds rezoned to build a warehouse and have large trucks transport containers between Reynolds and Interstate 26, hundreds of area residents and community leaders pushed back.
They said heavy traffic, noise and engine smoke would thwart any progress made so far to make Reynolds a vibrant, walkable center.
But the warehouse could still come to the area. If that happens, Summey said, city-ownership would permit officials to restrict truck traffic to those making deliveries.
In addition, North Charleston would do away with Reynolds' curbside parking. The city is looking at purchasing properties in the area to create parking lots for the restaurants.
“It’s the city working with the community to try to find ways to rekindle excitement about the area," Summey said.
Dell Grayson, owner of Dellz on the Macon at 2021 Reynolds Ave., reopened the vegan restaurant in January to give community residents healthier food options. So far business has been good. But a constant truck flow would discourage people dining outside restaurants, she said.
She added that controlled traffic could help road conditions.
"Truck service on this (road) would be awful," she said. “I would love for the city to take ownership. ... It would be good for the community.”
The north end of Spruill near Park Circle has become a commercial hub. The site is spotted with pizzerias and burger shops.
Parking, especially for businesses like The CODFather Proper Fish and Chips, is an issue.
So far, the city has mitigated the problem by creating a gravel lot near the intersection of Spruill and Buist avenues, along with selling property to Sesame Burgers and Beer so they could create parking space.
“It’s really growing down there pretty fast. We're getting a lost of people to open restaurants down there," said North Charleston councilman Bob King. "Parking is a problem. We’re trying to work something on that.”