From The Daniel Island News

Top Stories
If they build it, will they come?
By Elizabeth Bush
Apr 17, 2013 - 9:16:26 AM

An idea to improve "walkability" and increase foot traffic for retailers by adding angled parking and/or landscaped medians to Seven Farms Drive is gaining interest.



Angled parking is already offered on Island Park Drive, with the vast majority of retail/commercial space on one side of the roadway. But the street landscape may soon change. Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan reports that the company is considering releasing new retail property for development on the opposite side of the street.




Although it does not yet have the lure of King Street in Charleston, where plentiful latte-touting shoppers happily stroll in and out of stores, or the park-like features of Greenville’s downtown streetscapes, could Daniel Island’s Seven Farms Drive eventually have a similar pedestrian-friendly feel? The potential is there, according to several people who live or work on the island.    
“Anything is possible,” said Steve Dudash, a landscape architect with Davis & Floyd who has had an active role on the island’s design team, working alongside the Daniel Island Company, since 1994. “…The desire has always been there to create a wonderful, great experience like that.”
The island’s urban setting has certainly earned multiple accolades over the years, including an Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence, as well as two Aurora Awards for community design. In addition, Daniel Island has been recognized three times as one of America’s “50 Best Master Planned Communities.”  Today, despite an unfavorable turn in the housing market between 2008 and 2011, the island’s residential sector is back on a healthy upswing.  
“I think it’s fair to say it’s exceeded what we ever thought this place could be,” said Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, of his organization’s original vision for the island.
But Sloan recognizes that on the island’s retail side, things have not fared as well for some. Businesses along Seven Farms Drive have seen some of their commercial counterparts come and go over the years. Speculators will tell you those closures have been attributed to a variety of factors, including poor business plans, high rents (something local commercial real estate brokers say is not the case), lackluster customer service or inadequate support from residents.  
“I think our retail section has lagged somewhat behind,” Sloan added. “That’s largely dependent on rooftops, and there are just not enough here yet to support a significant level of retail….so our job is to add more rooftops, add more businesses, and add more retailers that can reliably draw clients from off-island.”   
In addition to creating more rooftops, there is another idea drawing interest that has the potential to help increase foot traffic to businesses while enhancing pedestrian safety.  Dave Williams, president of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association (DINA), is leading an effort to improve Seven Farms Drive by proposing the addition of angled parking, at least on one side of the street, and/or center medians featuring flowers and other plantings.
“From the Neighborhood Association standpoint, we are absolutely in favor of anything that makes that area more walkable, more user-friendly and is in line with the aesthetics of what Daniel Island is trying to do,” said Williams. “People are starting to talk about it. The more everybody talks about it, the better it is for everybody. It needs to be a conversation that is front and center for the developers and the powers that be.”
Williams has pitched the concept to both Daniel Island Company representatives and city officials. Sloan said he is intrigued by the idea of slowing traffic down on Seven Farms Drive, but any improvements would have to be made by the City of Charleston, the entity with jurisdiction over the property. In addition, all of the major utilities that feed the island are located in the grassy areas off the roadway, so the curb-to-curb width is fixed and cannot be altered without “extraordinary expense,” he added.
 “A more pedestrian-friendly road section might do some nice things and I think it’s something that is worthy of study,” said Sloan. “…I hope the city takes a look at it. Ultimately, that’s city property…The angled parking idea is probably the thing with the most potential.”
Anna Payne, owner of Paisley on Daniel Island, is excited that some changes are under consideration.
“As both a small business owner and resident of the island, I feel that angled parking and any other improvements would have a tremendous impact on our local businesses,” said Payne, whose women’s clothing and accessory shop is located adjacent to the Publix Shopping Center on Seven Farms Drive.  “After being open for a year and a half, I continue to have residents walk into my shop for the first time and state that they did not know I was here. This leads me to believe that business exposure is somewhat minimal in what should be the heart of the island.”
Payne favors the idea of adding medians to the roadway or possibly removing trees from storefront areas to allow greater visibility for businesses.  Greg Turner of Island Eye Care agrees that giving drivers an unobstructed view of stores is important.
“The streetscapes start with the visibility of the businesses,” he said. “…If we could have some center median dividers for much of the street, that would prevent the u-turns that are inherently unsafe. Some low plantings, not to block signs, would make the medians more attractive. If the tree lawns could be cut into to provide angled parking it would benefit all the businesses.”
“A perception of convenient parking is always good for business,” added Dudash, formerly of DesignWorks. “You want places to be walkable and friendly…Buildings that are adaptive to changes in use are healthy for the overall evolution of a place…A total system is most desired. That means pedestrian-friendly streets, some easy parking, and great aesthetics and architecture. It’s not just one thing that will be creating a long-lasting value.”
The Town of Mount Pleasant is currently in the process of revitalizing Coleman Boulevard, a roadway that is the same width as Seven Farms Drive. A one-mile section of the street will ultimately feature a landscaped median, on-street parking, increased travel opportunities for bikers and pedestrians, as well as what planners call a “vibrant activity zone” between the road and buildings. Dudash said the new Coleman stretch will change traffic patterns while offering a “better pedestrian street.” He also commended Charlotte’s newer urban streetscapes and North Charleston’s Park Circle area, where similar enhancements to those proposed on Daniel Island are already in place.
“Park Circle’s downtown area is a wonderful place to be,” he said. “Great restaurants, simple details…They’ve done a wonderful job, and it’s become a destination. Once you get that started, it’s a catalyst for residential to come there, for businesses to come there. It becomes a catalyst for a great place to be.”
Dudash, who called Daniel Island one of his favorite places, said he is encouraged to see the community engaging in ideas that will ultimately build on the island’s success.
“I love the fact that the community is gathering and saying ‘let’s analyze what we’ve got and figure out what we can do better and try to make it happen…That’s awesome to be there in the creation of a community.”
Soon there will be an opportunity for residents and business owners to hear more about Daniel Island’s land plan, including the feasibility of the proposed Seven Farms Drive enhancements. Tim Keane, director of planning, preservation and sustainability for the City of Charleston, will serve as the guest speaker at the May 7 DINA meeting, to be held at Church of the Holy Cross. For additional information, visit the DINA website at dineighborhoodassociation.org.


© Copyright The Daniel Island News