Advocacy

The Advocates: Shaping West Ashley’s Future

WRITTEN BY lclark 10 months ago

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West Ashley is a vibrant corner of our region with a rich history, desirable neighborhoods and a diverse array of businesses, from regional stalwarts like Hendrick Automotive to innovative new companies like Push Digital. It’s also an area ripe with redevelopment potential.

Setting a course to seize that potential is the charge of the West Ashley Revitalization Commission, a City of Charleston group comprised of 19 elected officials and community leaders.

The Commission, which has been meeting since last October, took a major step forward this Wednesday by voting to endorse a comprehensive plan.

The appropriately titled Plan West Ashley is a sprawling, 332-page document packed with pictures, maps and renderings. It is organized into 5 sections – land use, transportation, sustainability, housing and economic development – and includes more than 150 recommended implementation steps.

There is something in this plan for everyone to like, and if you read it closely, you’ll probably find a few things that give you pause. That’s likely due to the highly inclusive input process and active feedback from diverse stakeholders and hundreds of community members. Honestly, the process to create this plan is the closest thing to town hall style democracy I’ve ever experienced.

Your Chamber has been plugged in from the get-go. Not only have members and staff been at every meeting, we were a public outreach partner, proudly hosted business community input sessions and convened a task force to thoroughly review the initial draft and suggest edits.

There is a lot in the plan, but I’ll draw your attention to three things:

  1. Unequivocal support for Mark Clark Expressway completion. The Plan envisions a better connected, multimodal-friendly West Ashley, and recognizes that’s only possible with a finished Mark Clark Expressway taking tens of thousands of car trips per day off surface streets.
  2. Node-base development strategy. A reoccurring public input theme was that everyone wants a version of Avondale near their neighborhood. This evolved into a strategy targeting denser, mixed-use redevelopment in key corridors and nodes. Incentive suggestions added during several rounds of edits have the potential to jumpstart this part of the plan.
  3. Housing attainability as a top priority. Recognizing that housing is a growing concern for the whole region, the plan calls for expanding housing options and supply to meet demand at all income levels. Adjusting zoning and land use regulations to allow development of “affordable by design” housing products is among the promising suggestions.

Next steps for the plan are a joint meeting between the West Ashley Revitalization Commission and Planning Commission on January 10 followed by a public hearing and consideration by the Planning Commission on January 17. Pending approval, the next step is City Council, likely in February. We’ll keep you posted.

Have a great weekend!

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