When Victoria Goins and her husband first lived in the Summerville area, they bought a home in The Ponds. After moving to Atlanta and eventually back to Summerville, now with two small children, they bought a bigger house — in The Ponds again.
“We love it,” she says as she pushes Grant, 2, on the swing that hangs under the ancient live oak on the neighborhood’s common property.
“This morning, we were going to play at the house, but it was so beautiful today, we decided to come out here.” Daughter Spencer Cate, 8 months, is happy to ride her mom’s hip.
The Goins are just one of the many families finding homes in some of the newer neighborhoods emerging all over the north Lowcountry along the 17A corridor. The stretch begins south of Summerville and moves north to Goose Creek and toward Moncks Corner.
The Ponds was one of the first to be developed and features a tiered lakeside amphitheater for events. The lake also is used for kayaking or just sitting on the lawn to enjoy the day. The centerpiece is a restored old farmhouse surrounded by ancient oaks, a pavilion with picnic tables and a pool, and tree-lined streets that look as if they’ve been there forever. Also on the property is the Summerville YMCA at The Ponds, a state-of-the-art center for sports and wellness activities.
The Ponds is just one of a handful of master-planned communities offering a tempting mix of amenities, newer homes and proximity to Lowcountry attractions to home owners. Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston counties are growing by a rate of about 38 people a day, according to John Truluck, economic development director for Dorchester County.
“That’s a lot of people. All three counties in the region are in the fastest growing seven or eight counties in the state. Horry and Greenville counties are growing fast but the neighboring counties aren’t growing at the same rate. This is the only part of the state where you have three counties all growing fast at the same time,” Truluck says.
Berkeley County Chamber CEO Elaine Morgan says the region is an employee market with diverse job opportunities in all the major categories from medical resource to high tech.
“These developments are concentrating on homeowners’ conveniences and event opportunities for families. We currently are one of the fastest growing counties in the nation and we are a young county with the average age 35,” Morgan says.
And new businesses continue to come in, some to supply existing companies like Boeing or the soon-to-open Volvo plant. All are looking for an appeaing lifestyle for their employees. The new Sheep Island Interchange will open up the area and add more access to the 17A corridor and Highway 176 which intersects it.
From The Ponds it’s a short drive on 17A South to Summers Corners, part of the gigantic East Edisto Project now in the early stages of multi-decade development.
The new neighborhoods are not just about houses. Quality of life is implicit in the home designs, the layout of the communities and the offerings they provide.
Summers Corners is built for walking, whether it’s to nearby parks within each of the smaller communities, or to the town center that serves all of the residents as a place to gather.
The property offers access to lakes and forests for a host of outdoor activities. Summers Corner was launched about two years ago, and drew on the historic Summerville area as inspiration.
“The streetscapes are familiar and comfortable. For instance, you will have a home that might appeal to a retired couple next to a home that will be for a family. We have a number of retirees and they appreciate the ability to interact with young families,” says Jennifer Howard, director for communications and marketing, land and development for WestRock Company (formerly MeadWestvaco). “Summers Corner works to connect people to each other and the landscape around them. We have a strong and extensive system of parks and trails.”
Among the amenities is a lake located at the corner of Summers Drive and 17A.
“There used to be a buffalo pastured there years ago, so the lake is Buffalo Lake,” Howard says.
Of course, there is a pool, but one of the most popular places is the Corner House, a coffee house run by Coastal Coffee Roasters. One side is the Summers Corner sales office with the usual information and maps.
Howard adds that among the highlights that make Summers Corner unique are the events they host.
“We work hard to find events that will resonate with the people who live there. For instance we worked with Middleton Place to present a program on Arthur Middleton (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) that included a rum tasting that focused on the connection between South Carolina, the Middletons and the Caribbean.”
The community has also held sweetgrass basket making lessons, fishing clinics for those who like to fish and a monthly farmers market.
On the other side of the greater Summerville area, located off of 17A near I-26 in Berkeley County, is Nexton. The development bills itself as a high-tech, family-friendly development with everything from pools and vast lawns for morning yoga, to upscale businesses, restaurants and even a park just right for bocce.
Nexton will house three different villages within the 3,600-acre residential community: Brighton Park Village, Del Webb at Nexton and North Creek Village.
Currently there are 200 homes up and sold in Brighton Park Village and North Creek Village, according to Cassie Cataline, marketing director for Nexton.
Nexton defines itself as a high-tech environment.
“It is South Carolina's first gigabit community… where every home, business and school within the development can access the Internet at speeds of one gigabit per second or faster,” Cataline says. A gigabit is over 100 times faster than the average Internet connection.
Further out 17A North at Highway 176, is an intersection historically known as Carnes Crossroads because of the man who farmed the property, Dallas V. Carnes, in the early 1900s. The property was marked by its iconic Big Green Barn, saved from destruction and made into a centerpiece for the community. It is truly a crossroads of the surrounding communities since it is in the city of Goose Creek, in Berkeley County with a Summerville mailing address.
Carnes Crossroads is being developed by the Daniel Island Company and is a sister neighborhood to Daniel Island.
“Our master plan is based on what has been done at Daniel Island, a good mixed-use plan with diverse residential. There will be some apartments as well and other products as the neighborhood develops,” says Julie Dombrowski, communications director for the Daniel Island Company.
“Of course the green barn is a great attraction for residents but also the public. The weekly farmers market is there and other events, all open to the public,” Dombrowski says. “The vision always has been that Carnes Crossroads is not just for the residents but a place that functions more like a small town so people will come and visit for other reasons well.”
All of the separate neighborhoods within Carnes Crossroads share walking trails, lakes, a pool and the village green.
Construction is now underway for Windmill Station at Carnes Crossroads, a business development that will include retail shops, business offices and restaurants.
The property will also be the site of the new Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital.
“The hospital will open as a 50-bed hospital and we are excited to have them here,” says Julie Dombrowski, communications director for the Daniel Island Company. “It will be the only full service hospital in Berkeley County.” The hospital campus will also feature medical offices.
Carnes Crossroads is also the new home of Northwoods Church and Northwoods Academy. The school has been transitioning onto the property for the last few years and educates students from preschool to 12th grade.
“This is the first time they have been able to have the church and school on the same property,” Dombrowski says.
Just past Carnes Crossroads on Highway 176 sits Cane Bay that sold its first home in 2007. Ten years later, Ben Gramling of Charleston-based Gramling Brothers Real Estate and Development, says that there are about 3,000 homes in Cane Bay with the potential for a possible 10,000 homes with the adjacent 2000-acre Wildcat Track off Highway 176 acquired earlier this year.
Of all the new upscale developments, Cane Bay has the advantage of being home to three public schools.
“We made the decision when we started this development we wanted to concentrate on education.
“What better lifestyle for families than to have their schools in their own neighborhood where they can walk or ride their bikes to school, walk to ball practice or music. On game nights or for music events they can walk or ride in a golf cart and not have to deal with heavy traffic,” Gramling says. “Partnering with the school system has been one of the best things we have done.” Gramling said the company donated 160 acres for the schools.
Gramling said getting the Publix shopping center up was also “a big shot in the arm” for Cane Bay.
“Inside the Publix shopping center we have four to five restaurants, medical offices and other businesses,” Gramling said.
The next big thing coming to Cane Bay is the YMCA which, with land donated by Gramling and the Y’s facilities represent a $20 million complex.
“It will have 50,000 square feet under a roof with multiple ball fields. But we’re also partnering with the Berkeley County Library to be located at the Y,” Gramling says.
“What a great place for kids to go after school. And it’s not just for Cane Bay but for the whole community, so, a lot of sports and learning will be happening at the same place. That’s important because this is going to be a great place for families and kids and active adults,” Gramling says.
“This was always in the county plan to be a growth pattern in this area. This marries well with what the county vision was,” Gramling says.
He says the group of communities together is becoming its own area.
“With all the businesses and industry coming in, this is going to be a great place for all these employees to live they will be able to turn up this way for work and not down to Charleston.”
As new communities open, partner with existing institutions and create their own unique facilities, they quickly fill with the new arrivals coming to the area to work at industries and to make a home in the emerging areas along 17A.