Summerville stars Flowertown rates a top-25 place to retire

While visiting friends who live in the Del Webb retirement community, Wendy Larkin, from the Charlotte area, made time to shop Friday on historic Central Avenue in downtown Summerville.

Summerville has been named by CNN Money as one of the nation’s top 25 places to retire, but what do residents of “the Flowertown in the Pines” think about that?

“I’d have to agree or I wouldn’t have moved here,” said 76-year-old Don Powell, who was relaxing outside The Village Knittery in Summerville’s historic downtown area Friday while his wife, Barbara, shopped inside.

“It was more because I have two daughters and seven grandchildren here, but it is a good place to retire” said Powell, a former Michigan resident who moved to Summerville six years ago.

“It’s a pleasant place, it’s a friendly place, and it’s close to a lot of places people like to visit, like the beaches, but we don’t have to deal with them.”

Not far from the knitting shop, Phil and Judy Ogden were shopping along historic Central Avenue.

The Ogdens live near Rochester, N.Y., and are considering retiring to Summerville.

“Basically, we’re just thinking about getting away from the weather,” said Phil Ogden, a 74-year-old retired college physics professor. “We really like the Charleston area, and Summerville is a little way from the coast, so hurricanes are less of a concern.”

The Ogdens became attracted to the area after vacationing years ago in Charleston, and this week they came down to look at homes at Del Webb Charleston, a gated community for active seniors located between Summerville and Moncks Corner.

The Money rankings picked the best places to retire based upon cost of living, low crime, major nearby medical centers, and services for seniors.

Summerville shared the “small town” subcategory with Aberdeen, S.D.; Prescott, Ariz.; Fort Payne, Ala; Danville, Ky; and Ottawa, Kan.

It’s the latest in a long list of ranking stories produced by Money and other publications, listing the wealthiest towns, the sexiest beach towns, and so on. Just over a week ago, Charleston was named the top travel destination on the planet by readers of Conde Nast Traveler.

“People have been to Charleston, but they can live for half the price in Summerville,” said Patrick Mason, co-founder of the Center for Carolina Living. “It’s a value proposition.”

CNN Money also mentioned affordability and proximity to Charleston, in the four paragraphs it devoted to Summerville.

“Today Summerville offers much of the history and charm of nearby Charleston but in a smaller, more affordable setting,” the story said.

Results from the 2010 census showed that Summerville grew fastest among South Carolina’s large and medium-size municipalities. The town added 15,640 residents from 2000 to 2010, a 56 percent increase that raised the population to 43,392.

Mason said the weather and coastal living are a big draw.

“You have a four-season lifestyle there with access to culture and the beaches,” he said.

Or, as Don Powell put it, “the weather beats the heck out of Michigan.”