There was a time when Citadel Mall was a bustling hub of commerce in West Ashley. Now it’s not much more than a relic — a weathered, boxy monument to changing consumer tastes lost in the city’s largest sea of overbuilt parking space.
The mall has passed its prime, but the real estate hasn’t.
So it’s not surprising that developers who bought Citadel Mall in 2017 have a brighter vision for its future. In this case, however, that vision could benefit West Ashley in ways that go beyond a simple facelift for a neglected piece of property.
On Tuesday, 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 PUD 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.
In place of all that asphalt, and eventually in the place of portions of the mall, would go several hundred residences, offices, hotels, a grocery store and other possible uses.
MUSC has already started converting the old J.C. Penney store into an outpatient facility. Citadel Mall developers are considering adding senior housing and workforce units as part of a potential agreement with the city.
HBO also has a long-term lease for a studio in the former Sears.
It’s still early in the process and there aren’t a lot of specifics available, but a fairly intensive redevelopment with a healthy mix of uses makes sense for that site. That’s why Citadel Mall has been a focal point of the West Ashley Revitalization planning process, an ongoing effort to improve quality of life in Charleston’s most populous suburb.
Broadly, the goal is to rethink West Ashley’s existing but underused assets in ways that would make them more productive, more attractive, more sustainable and more livable. A Citadel Mall redevelopment fits that bill.
Bringing good jobs to that part of West Ashley could be particularly transformative. More than 80% of West Ashley residents with jobs work elsewhere in the region, according to city data. Those commutes clog roads and cause any number of other headaches related to long daily drives.
To further reduce congestion problems, the Citadel Mall redevelopment team should think long-term about mass transit potential. Sam Rittenberg Boulevard could probably be reworked to accommodate a bus rapid transit line in the future, for instance.
Flood prevention ought to be a priority as well, and there’s plenty of room for improvement over a roughly 50-acre surface parking lot.
It’s most important, of course, that the Citadel Mall redevelopment be a good fit with the surrounding community and that it work to resolve some of the concerns in the area rather than exacerbate them.
This is a good chance to do that. City officials ought to welcome an opportunity to build a better West Ashley.