Charleston City Council will consider an application for a planned unit development that would rework most of the Citadel Mall property, which has twice as much acreage dedicated to parking as it does to retail space.
The proposal, which doesn’t yet have a lot of specifics, would mercifully do away with most of that parking in favor of compact garages and other more pedestrian-friendly options that eat up less space.
We need to think about the larger context and other plans and overlays.
Citadel Mall is the town center of West Ashley, much more than the downtown of the city of Charleston, and eventually will eclipse the peninsula as the economic center, except for tourism and health care.
Choosing Citadel Mall in West Ashley (off I-526 and Sam Rittenberg) as a transportation hub offering commuter parking served by an often-running CARTA bus (every 10 minutes) to the peninsula will help immensely to reduce congestion with minimal investment.
The missed opportunity for added city tax revenue is on Savannah Highway, where highly productive dry commercial land is now being employed to store or warehouse thousands of new and used cars. These added revenues could help fund flood defenses.
Part of the automotive inventory activities could be moved to Citadel Mall parking lots. (No city financing required.) If needed, tax land above 5 feet inundation because it is too valuable and needs to be put to higher uses going well beyond open-air warehousing.
The present automotive retail and service functions on Savannah Highway could be left in place.
Here are some other ideas:
Widen Savannah Highway from land acquired from car storage and/or raise the walkways with a travel lane underneath.
Rezone Savannah Highway, creating a very high street wall for dense commercial development. (Let car dealerships capture appreciation as the incentive to convert.)
Install a bidirectional commuting lane that reverses during inbound and outbound rush hours that could be an express bus lane or a feeder spur line of the expanded mass transit service using the Citadel Mall hub as a transfer point or junction.
Bring in the smaller businesses tucked on the side streets that have converted residential units to commercial spaces on Savannah Highway. Redevelop those spaces for mixed middle income, worker and low-income housing.
Target the Savannah Highway commercial development to the growing services sector.
Rename, promote and incentivize Savannah Highway as a “tech row.”
Run an excellent, high-quality business-oriented jitney service from the automotive customer parking zone at Citadel Mall to bring in automotive customers so they don’t need to traverse Savannah Highway.
Expand high-quality business-oriented jitney service from the Citadel Mall customer parking zone (park and ride) to the peninsula.
Bring in major entity employees such as MUSC and Roper with a package of incentives and flexible starting times. Offer MUSC and Roper clients free service to the hospitals and doctors.
Fred Palm of Edisto Island is a retired professor of oversight and investigations at the John Jay College Graduate School of Public Management and a former executive director of the Association of Inspectors General.