Goose Creek is as old and historic as almost any place in South Carolina, but the city doesn’t appear that way to the casual visitor. What most people see is development dating from the past few generations, built mainly for those commuting between homes and jobs in nearby communities.
The city’s ongoing comprehensive planning process offers Goose Creek residents and business leaders an important chance to change that, if they can agree on a common vision. We agree with those who have called this the most important planning effort in the community’s 60-year history as a city.
The recorded history of the pre-incorporation community goes back centuries; it was settled during the early colonial days because it was some of the farmland closest to Charleston (then Charles Town) with access to abundant fresh water. Much of that early history was rural, including vast rice plantations, and many of the earliest homes and other buildings have been lost over time. Even the exceptional survivors, such as St. James Church Goose Creek, maintain their rural setting and aren’t part of the city’s main hub around U.S. Highways 52 and 176.
So most of today’s Goose Creek, what’s visible to most visitors, looks newer than the cores of neighboring municipalities such as Summerville and Moncks Corner. That makes sense when one considers how recently the city incorporated.
Some are trying to build a new, more appealing city that would give Goose Creek a greater sense of place and identity, and the comprehensive plan update is a crucial tool for them to build broader support. They hope to create a distinctive downtown where residents would shop and eat and others would want to visit. “We don’t have a walkable downtown area,” Mayor Greg Habib told reporter Andrew Miller. “I think people and municipalities are realizing how important a downtown area can be, and we think it’s a realistic project.”
Summerville already has many of those elements in its older and more traditional downtown, with its revitalized town square and sizable historic district. Summerville also had the foresight to establish Azalea Park in the 1930s across more than a dozen acres, a community jewel that’s just blocks from walkable downtown shops and restaurants that attract both residents and visitors. It’s a great example of how a town can protect and nurture its core as growth booms around it.
Goose Creek has great potential to create its own special identity. City planners should draw inspiration from the revitalization along East Montague Avenue in North Charleston — another city that grew without establishing a downtown — and on Charleston’s King Street before that. Both efforts show how private investment can transform a place once local government sets forth a vision and commits to making smart, appealing investments in streets, sidewalks and other parts of the public realm. This is not a particularly new idea for Goose Creek, but it is one attracting more interest. The Creek City Grill & Brewery — the city’s first brewery — is expected to open by the start of summer. While it’s only one investment, it’s a promising sign.
The plan is largely completed, but the city’s Planning Commission will consider it March 2, around which time the draft plan will be available online. City Council is expected to hold a workshop March 23 to review the plan informally, and a public hearing is set tentatively for April 11. Of course, the plan is about more than creating a town center or a series of village centers; it also will speak to traffic, aging shopping centers and the siting of new apartments — the kind of development concerns common to the bustling Charleston region.
Goose Creek is at a figurative crossroads as well as a literal one. Its success in providing workers in the metro area with an affordable place to buy a home or rent cannot be disputed: The city already is South Carolina’s eighth-largest and soon could have more than 50,000 residents. But its leaders, in both the public and private sectors, should strive for something more: They should build on their success as a place to live to help create more, better places to work and play.