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Old 02-12-2015, 09:12 PM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
9,190 posts, read 29,590,960 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnilmo View Post
Speaking as a young-ish (29 year old) professional, there's no reason in the world that Charleston can't be similar. Charleston already has good things going for it in terms of atmosphere (arts, music, restaurants, etc) but needs that last little push to consistently keep people downtown after 5:00. What few condos exist now in downtown Charleston are beautiful and a decent start down that road, but are still too expensive to get a solid foothold with folks in their 20s and 30s.

I have mentioned in the past that City leaders should look at places like Chattanooga, Tennessee for inspiration.

I grew up in Charleston "pre-mall and pre-G" so back then, shopping and other things were less than now, but so much more could be done if those magnets were there to keep people intown as well as attract a certain level of tourists.

A couple of decades ago or so, Chattanooga was VERY similar to Charleston. Similar size (slightly larger), in a valley, on a river, but an industrial city with very little going on, that basically died after 5pm. They were lucky enough to have a couple of strong visionaries who had the knack of getting things done there, though. Through their ideas, the City cleaned itself up, and built the Tennessee Aquarium. It literally exploded a tourism industry there that since, has completely transformed that city. Downtown in the tourist zone has a museum district, riverfront parks, the Aquarium, a 3D IMAX theater, children's museum, boat tours, and a large variety of restaurants, clubs, etc. There is almost no comparison between the old Chattanooga and what is there today. Charleston reminds me today still in many ways, of the older Chattanooga.

You can't completely duplicate another town's success like that. You have to have the *perfect* combination of people with vision, who have the ability to get things actually done, plus geographically be in the right spot, too. Chattanooga benefits from being only two hours away from Atlanta (5 million people metro), Nashville, Knoxville, etc. Charleston is 3.5 hours away from larger cities, so it's a bit more out of the "day trip" zone, so it probably couldn't generate the same day trip crowds that Chattanooga does. But a lot more could be done. Hopefully someday some light bulbs will go off and that one great idea that sets it all off will manifest itself there.
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Old 02-13-2015, 10:44 AM
 
1,575 posts, read 1,797,352 times
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I can assure you that city leaders in Charleston (and definitely Huntington, for that matter) know all about Chattanooga's renaissance and what similar initiatives can be taken here. And it isn't just Chatty, it's Asheville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Knoxville, and other regional success stories that are continually being looked at.

If you want a huge source of the problem (besides overall state economy, old guard interests, etc), look at Council. Not necessarily the members themselves, but the sheer quantity of them. Chattanooga has 9 members. Charleston had 27 (I think they're down to 26 now?). That's three times as many members for a city with half as many people.
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Old 02-13-2015, 07:52 PM
 
9,407 posts, read 11,474,617 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elewis7 View Post
I can assure you that city leaders in Charleston (and definitely Huntington, for that matter) know all about Chattanooga's renaissance and what similar initiatives can be taken here. And it isn't just Chatty, it's Asheville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Knoxville, and other regional success stories that are continually being looked at.

If you want a huge source of the problem (besides overall state economy, old guard interests, etc), look at Council. Not necessarily the members themselves, but the sheer quantity of them. Chattanooga has 9 members. Charleston had 27 (I think they're down to 26 now?). That's three times as many members for a city with half as many people.
Local politics are an issue all over the state. I'm sure it is no different in Charleston. We don't have as many council members here in Morgantown, but the ones we have are primarily protective of the old guard interests you mentioned and throw roadblock after roadblock in the way of progress in the city limits. That's why 90% of the development here takes place outside of the city limits. I think you have some of that situation there too. Old Guard protectives are not interested in having vision. They are interested in trying to ignore it.

It's frustrating for us here too, to have to deal with that situation, especially considering that we actually are close enough to the large population centers for those day trips that Atlantagreg talked about.
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Old 02-16-2015, 09:30 AM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
9,190 posts, read 29,590,960 times
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Side-stepping here, but reposting a video that has been posted before. Sometimes progress may not be so good for a smaller city: Video of Charleston in the early 1980s, right before the mall was built. Notice how bustling downtown was then - the way I remember it. It's a shame some projects can't come about to bring back some of these crowds downtown again.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6zv_4_3BXs
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Old 02-19-2015, 11:11 PM
 
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Greg, I don't believe Charleston is unique in that regard. There is a website on Facebook for Wheeling memories and they post photos of those times when the downtown there was filled with people and bustling. Those days are gone. Downtowns have a really tough time competing with the more suburban areas for shoppers for a number of reasons... congestion and difficulty getting to and from shopping areas, parking which usually costs money and sometimes fines for not getting to meters on time, concerns about safety after dark, and the fact that shopping venues built outside of downtown areas are usually newer and nicer with ample, free parking.

It's my impression that when the Town Center was built, it was well received but it also destroyed many of the more traditional shops in the city. Now, the outlying areas are getting more shopping venues which puts pressure on the Town Center. The fact that it is doing as well as it is now is remarkable considering its age and location. Most shopping malls have a practical lifespan as shopping venues of 30 or fewer years before the owners are forced to start to convert them to other uses if they are able.
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Old 03-13-2015, 08:01 AM
 
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The condominium project at 814 Virginia Street (the former state office building next to the Masonic Temple) seems to be finally off and running. Over the past week or so, I've noticed dumpsters out front and workers who appear to be doing interior demolition. Here is an article from the Gazette last spring as a refresher on the project: The Charleston Gazette | Ex-Housing Development Fund building set for condo conversion

Not earth-shattering news, but progress toward increasing the supply of (hopefully affordable) downtown housing stock is always a good thing.
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Old 03-13-2015, 08:35 AM
 
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I forgot all about this. Thanks!
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Old 03-17-2015, 06:25 AM
 
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The city has released the latest, and possibly final, design for Slack Plaza. The Transit Mall will be bumped slightly south, out of the way of the main walkway, and the Middle East Mart could be replaced by a police kiosk. Both are good things. The plan calls for no permanent seating (benches, etc.). I'm torn on that -- I get what they're trying to do in encouraging the loiterers to move along, but lack of seating also makes it less of a "park" in terms of leisure/relaxation or resting when walking between the mall and downtown. Regardless, this is going to be a major upgrade to what has long been an eyesore. More information and some design renderings in the newspaper article here: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/a...150319272/1420
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:34 AM
 
Location: 304
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnilmo View Post
The city has released the latest, and possibly final, design for Slack Plaza. The Transit Mall will be bumped slightly south, out of the way of the main walkway, and the Middle East Mart could be replaced by a police kiosk. Both are good things. The plan calls for no permanent seating (benches, etc.). I'm torn on that -- I get what they're trying to do in encouraging the loiterers to move along, but lack of seating also makes it less of a "park" in terms of leisure/relaxation or resting when walking between the mall and downtown. Regardless, this is going to be a major upgrade to what has long been an eyesore. More information and some design renderings in the newspaper article here: Charleston Daily Mail | Design revealed for Slack Plaza
You beat me to it.

I can understand where they are coming from in terms of seating, but there should be atleast some seating offered year round. I hope that there is something planned for the side of the Peoples Building to the north of the park. Right now it is an empty canvas for something. I don't want to see a huge mural, but some trendy patterns would be cool.

I am super excited about this, and I know that this will help with so many issues downtown including crime, walkability, scenery, and even attracting businesses to Summers and Capitol Streets.

Here is the other article.

The Charleston Gazette | Plaza redesign would create green space downtown
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:12 AM
 
1,575 posts, read 1,797,352 times
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Some thoughts:

I love the design. I've always hated the lack of green space downtown and this is the perfect place for it. Kudos for finding a great design in simplicity. And I love that the hardscape features, such as the crosswalks and pavers, could be used to facilitate more marked connections such as from the Mall to the Civic Center (especially after its redesign) and from Slack to the River.

Brawley and the walkway from the Mall to Slack will be the first tackled, as they have the money for that. With those implemented, it will be easier to get grant funding for Slack (feds love to pick sure things and fund the last steps of projects). They mentioned widening the walkway, but I'm unsure as to if that means scaling back the building between Slack and the Mall. That was mentioned in the Imagine Charleston plan and would physically and visually open up that space to be much, much more inviting, leading more people walking from the mall to Slack, Brawley, and ultimately Capitol. With CURA's purchase and renovation of the Morrison Building (that's underway now), Brawley will be upgraded fairly soon and create that vibrant alley-type place that is missing in town.

The term "friendly condemnation action." I like it. The Middle East Mart has been a blight on that area and putting a police substation wouldn't be a bad idea.

The transit mall was mentioned to be moved south on Laidley, but everything from Imagine Charleston said north towards Lee. The rendering in the Daily Mail article shows it at Lee, so I'm going with that.

The big blank wall on the Peoples Building needs two things. A fresh coat of white paint and either "CHARLEY WEST" or simply "CRW" or "CWV" in big bold letters at the top (in paint, or even more ideally, in large neon lights). Create both a landmark and a permanent branding to sell the area. The blank wall should be utilized as a screen for outdoor movies (as was suggested in the original Slack redesign), removable art installations, etc. Keep it a flex space but one which would provide something that nowhere else in town can replicate.

I'm so excited for this!!
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