A lot of folks in West Ashley were celebrating last week because they apparently won one for the home crowd.
See, they weren’t big on what was proposed for the site of the Northbridge Pig.
Ever since Falcon Enterprises announced plans for a fancy Sunoco convenience store/gas station on the site of the shuttered Piggly Wiggly at Ashley Landing shopping center, neighborhood groups have been protesting at City Council meetings and venting on Facebook.
That is partially because the land sits between Sam Rittenberg and Old Towne Road, near what locals have taken to calling the “suicide triangle.”
In other words, this property is where you come into West Ashley from the interstate and over the North Bridge. Residents note this is a gateway and, if the city is truly interested in revitalizing West Ashley, we ought to have something there better than ... a gas station.
That is completely understandable.
The city has not ignored those concerns. In fact, Jacob Lindsey, Charleston’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability, told reporter Warren Wise a couple of weeks back that the land should be “redeveloped to the highest standards.”
And that’s not a gas station.
But ultimately it was not community outrage or political meddling that has postponed and possibly killed this development. It was simply existing development standards — and the realities of business.
There is much more in play here than a simple convenience store.
West Ashley feels like it’s been ignored for years. While Mount Pleasant, James Island and North Charleston have all gone through unprecedented growth and renovation, us folks west of the Ashley have seen one shopping center after another empty out.
You can see them when you’re stuck in traffic on Savannah Highway.
It is not ideal, to be sure — we don’t even have a Logan’s. Oh, the humanity.
But lest West Ashley go through the same uprising that Mount Pleasant and Summerville have seen recently, keep in mind there are no guys in black hats here.
Fact is, the owners have been shopping that land for two years, since they got it when the Pig went belly up in 2013. They would like something that is, for lack of a better word, better.
But the odd shape of the property and the location has not attracted any buyers. Not the sort of businesses residents say they would prefer, anyway. But Sunoco wants to come in.
Honestly, that’s not the end of the world. There’s a similar Sunoco at Rivers and Remount in North Charleston and it’s probably nicer than any convenience store in West Ashley.
While many would like to see a park or a welcome center, or the Ritz-Carlton, on that site, you can’t force businesses to locate where they don’t want to be.
Otherwise Whole Foods would move a little farther out, instead of bumping up against Harris Teeter and Earth Fare. Which a lot of West Ashley people have been griping about as well.
Funny, people around here claim to be conservative but have absolutely no trouble telling private landowners what they should do with their property.
That doesn’t jibe, politically speaking.
Mayor John Tecklenburg made West Ashley a priority in his campaign, and the fact that the city has been so involved in this Ashley Landing deal is an encouraging sign.
Word is the city lobbied hard to get a signature development on this land, but the market will only bear a high-end convenience store at this point.
The owners withdrew their plan last week because the Design Review Board was not going to approve the store’s style. They wanted something a bit nicer.
Will Sunoco spruce up their design and try again? Who knows.
One thing is for sure. What doesn’t need to happen here is for the government to swoop in, buy the land and put up a park or something. We already have two parks within a mile or so of Ashley Landing. Besides, eminent domain is something to be used sparingly. If Mayor Joe Riley didn’t use eminent domain to get Waterfront Park, the city shouldn’t use it for this.
But maybe the city can do some other things to help the area — perhaps fix the suicide triangle. It’s an area ripe for one of those dreaded traffic circles, like the ones in Mount Pleasant. Honestly, anything would be better than what we have now. Try leaving Captain’s Comics and heading for the mall. Can’t be done.
And who knows? If West Ashley gets a fancy traffic circle like Mt. P’s, maybe we’ll get that Ritz Carlton.
Or at least a Logan’s.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.