Mt. Pleasant growth choices

This illustration, from a 2012 presentation to Mount Pleasant Town Council of the Coleman Boulevard Master Plan, shows the vision of a more urban Coleman Boulevard conceived by urban design planners at Seamon Whiteside & Associates. (Provided)

Mount Pleasant is unquestionably having a growth spurt, but that’s no good reason to jettison the town’s long-term plan for revitalizing the city center.

Unfortunately, a handful of Town Council members want to keep the town’s historic center from growing up.

An 8-year-old plan to revitalize Coleman Boulevard with a handful of taller, multi-use buildings, better pedestrian access, increased public space and other amenities will face its latest challenge today when council’s Planning and Development Committee discusses lowering height limits along the corridor.

Currently, most properties on Coleman Boulevard have a 55-foot height limit, with some allowed as high as 75-feet. The idea is to add enough commercial and residential density to create a “downtown” area in the heart of old Mount Pleasant.

However, the planning committee is set to consider not just returning to the longstanding 55-foot height limit but further reducing it to a maximum of three stories. That’s not an adjustment — it’s an overreaction.

And it should concern property owners across Mount Pleasant.

The Coleman revitalization plan is a smart proposal to help move the town gradually away from car dependence and provide options for people who want to be able to bike from shop to shop or walk across the street for dinner.

In the long term, it could even help ease traffic along Coleman Boulevard if enough businesses move to the area to provide jobs for people who live nearby.

But backing away from the revitalization blueprint would guarantee that such shifts never happen. Instead, the town would be left with just one badly planned apartment complex in The Boulevard sticking out like a sore thumb.

The Boulevard should indeed be a cautionary tale for Mount Pleasant public officials.

Several ill-advised design choices make its structures imposing and off-putting rather than inviting pedestrian traffic. And without any nearby buildings of similar scale, it looks woefully out of place.

Commercial options to complement the Boulevard’s added residential density haven’t panned out very well either, and town officials must address an imbalance of homes to businesses — not just along Coleman Boulevard.

But if Mount Pleasant’s shaky start at a taller, denser “downtown” hasn’t pleased many residents, it’s no reason to give up entirely. Instead it should encourage better planning, higher quality architecture, a greater focus on pedestrians, and a pragmatism that recognizes the limits of reshaping a town that people already clearly find to be an attractive place to live.

In a town growing as quickly as Mount Pleasant, subtle shifts to more vertical growth could be the only realistic way to stop sprawl — or at least slow it down. That possibility should be more than enough reason to keep all options on the table, including taller buildings along Coleman Boulevard.

Mount Pleasant can’t reasonably keep people out who want to live there, so residents and town officials are going to have to decide where to put them.

Coleman Boulevard seems like a great place to start.