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Spartan

Is Charleston on the verge of a population boom?

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This is a small part of this article.

The big sell-off

Timber companies unloading thousands of acres, putting Lowcountry at a crossroads

BY TONY BARTELME and RON MENCHACA

Of The Post and Courier Staff

A handful of timber companies have just sold or are selling more than 38,000 acres of timberland on the edges of the Charleston metropolitan area, triggering an unprecedented land rush.

Timber industry insiders and government leaders can't remember when so much forest land in this area changed hands or was put up for sale at once.

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BRAD NETTLES/STAFF

Suburban Charleston's Village Green neighborhood pushes against a buffer of forest protecting Drayton Hall and other historic plantations on S.C. Highway 61 from development. Recent sell-offs of huge tracts of forest by timber companies threaten to overwhelm the area with more subdivisions.

Despite the changes these transactions likely are to bring -- developers are making plans for as many as 30,000 new homes on timber company land -- the public usually has no idea what's in store for the land until the deals are done.

Many sales involving the largest tracts are being inked quietly among a few timber conglomerates and real estate investors.

Conservation groups are trying to buy some of the land but are overwhelmed by the vast amount of acreage that's on the market.

Anxious government leaders are bracing for huge population increases in areas that are now largely rural.

Developers who have bought or have options on timber company land are floating proposals for subdivisions for more than 71,000 people. [edit: for reference, the City of North Charleston has a population of 79,600] Politicians fear they may have to raise taxes for new schools, roads and other services. Last week, Berkeley County slapped a 60-day moratorium on new subdivision applications, a move driven largely by the sales of large timber tracts to developers.

The shape of the metropolitan area is at stake, and it's mostly in the hands of three timber companies: MeadWestvaco Corp., Plum Creek Timberland Co. and International Paper.

Together, the three own 177,000 acres in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, an analysis of land records by The Post and Courier found.

That's equivalent to all the land in the cities of Charleston, North Charleston, Summerville and Moncks Corner combined, plus 30,000 acres to spare.

These three timber companies also are in the midst of a massive timberland sell-off.

In the past year, MeadWestvaco alone has sold or optioned about 30,000 acres in the Charleston area, including the Poplar Grove and Watson Hill tracts near S.C. Highway 61.

Across the Cooper River, International Paper recently transferred 4,592 acres south of Huger to its real estate arm. The land is known as the Keystone tract and is inside the boundaries of the Francis Marion National Forest. Under Berkeley County's zoning laws, a developer theoretically could build several thousand houses there.

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As long as the population boom does not ruin the charm of the city, then it should be a good thing for Charleston. However, when the damage outweighs the benefits... well, you can guess the rest.

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I saw this article yestarday in the Post & Courrier.

I think most of Charleston population growth will be from retirees. It's redicoulsly expensive to own a home on the peninsula. The city really doesn't have much industry outside of tourism does it? So not a lot to offer for young people and families once youv'e seen all the sights.

Unfortunately Charleston isn't like Boston, New York, or Baltimore, other cities that are just as old as Charleston but have significantly larger and more diverse economies. Those cities grew up but Charleston hasn't reached their level and probablly never will.

I think Charleston will grow but once again not the type of growth one would see in Columbia or Greenville in the near future. Just my opinion.

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I saw this article yestarday in the Post & Courrier.

I think most of Charleston population growth will be from retirees. It's redicoulsly expensive to own a home on the peninsula. The city really doesn't have much industry outside of tourism does it? So not a lot to offer for young people and families once youv'e seen all the sights.

Unfortunately Charleston isn't like Boston, New York, or Baltimore, other cities that are just as old as Charleston but have significantly larger and more diverse economies. Those cities grew up but Charleston hasn't reached their level and probablly never will.

I think Charleston will grow but once again not the type of growth one would see in Columbia or Greenville in the near future. Just my opinion.

Charleston's main industry is tourism, but it also has others. Shipping is a huge one as C-town is the 3rd largest port on the East Coast. There are other industries which relate to that like trucking companies. Charleston is also in the running for a Boeing Plant (it would make some kind of part for their planes). Verizon just opened up a massive call center there (over 1000 emplyees). Not to mention the Naval Air Station. Among the many manufactures there are paper, metal products, chemicals, cigars, molded rubber products, and petrochemicals. Charleston has a healthy mix of industries.

All my friends that go to College of Charleston think its the best place ever. Its tourism isndustry helps it maintain a large selection of restaurants which in turn keeps locals coming downtown. There is also a healthy night life there. MUSC, the Citadel, and College of Charleston all help keep young people moving to the area. Charleston is probably one the best places around for young people to go. (Short of Columbia of course ;) )

It always irritates me when people say that the Northeastern cities are "older" than Charleston. While it is true in some cases in terms of the first "settlement," Charleston itself is just as old as any of these. it was established in 1670- that means that there were people around before then. Anyway- Charleston did grow up, but you have to understand that in the context that until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the South was largely agricultural, and had a slave-based economy. The size of most cities was relatively small when compared to the Northen, industrial economy.

Charleston won't ever "catch up" to the Northern cities- but thats fine by me. I do agree that Charleston won't grow as fast as the Greenville area, but I disagree with Columbia. In terms of population, the Charleston metro is going to out-pace Columbia by the next Census. Columbia's advantage is that its downtown is central to the area, where as Charelston is strung out to the North and in a semi-circle around the area (you cant build on water, obviously).

The problem with home-owners on the peninsula is that they don't live there. You can search earlier articles that discuss how people have the homes as vacation homes rather than a primary residence, so the population is lower than it could be. Also the public schools in that area aren't that great, so you have less of an incentive to live there except for the location. I think that most kids go to the private schools. Don't hold me to that though.

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That was very educational Spartan. I didn't realize the other industries that were located in metro Charleston. I also didn't know it was a popular spot for young people? Whenever I thought of Charleston I just always thought of it as a tourist town. But then again I haven't spent much time there.

According to the last census estimate (2003) Dorchester Co. is outpacing both Lexington, and Greenville counties.

This is nothing personal, I just don't see how people always insist that Greenville is outpacing the states other two metros when all three areas seem to be growing comparatively as fast.

South Carolinas 3 largest Metro's and their 3 fastest growing counties (2000-2003):

Charleston Metro

Charleston Co. 321,014 3.6%

Dorchester Co. 104,168 8.1%

Berkeley Co. 146,449 2.7%

Average growth rate: 4.8%

Columbia Metro

Richland Co. 332,104 3.6%

Lexington Co. 226,528 4.9%

Kershaw Co. 54,481 3.5%

Average growth rate: 4%

Greenville Metro

Greenville Co. 395,357 4.1%

Spartanburg Co. 261,281 3.0%

Anderson Co. 171,510 3.5%

Average growth rate 3.5%

I guess what I was trying to say was that yes Charleston is growing fast but the majority of the people that will be moving there will be northern retirees. The future growth in Columbia and Greenville will be stimulated by young urban professionals and young families, but then again this is all my opinion B)

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I decided to bump this thread back up because I think Charleston is now already starting to become a boomtown. As Spartan mentioned earlier, the airline plant is now being built currently, and the city is a major draw for young singles as well as families. With the new Ravenel bridge completed, Charleston will boom on a quicker pace, now. City estimates already have the city around 110,000, and the metro area is going to be close to 600,000.

We'll wait and see when the numbers come out, but the boom is starting to happen. I say, let it come! :)

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..on the verge.....I would say that Charleston is in the midst of a population boom... And I hate to dispel the myth, but they are not mostly northern retirees... Northerners for sure, but retirees they are not. I have experienced mostly entreprenuerial and/or corporate types who either: move here and open a business; open a "local" office for whatever their company; or "commute" to places as far away as Boston.

There have been double digit increases in new home permits every year for the past 3 years, while existing home sales have remained strong. There is enough Class A office space currently under construction to DOUBLE the existing inventory. Berkeley county currently has 30,000 homes proposed. This is before the Sheep Island Road tract. These are neighborhoods that have been through planning.

People consistently overlook a rather diverse economy here. The largest employers in the area are MUSC, Bosch, Charelston AFB, and the Navy's Space and Warfare Engineering Facility (SPAWAR)..SPAWAR directly employs 2000 people and indirectly (contractors) employs nearly 20,000, doing $2B in business locally annually. The Global Aeronautica plant only adds to that, but there are already facilties from Westvac, Bayer, and Dupont in the area.

I'm kind of all over the place, but my point is there is a heck of alot going on here already. They ONLY area in the region that is not booming is "the hood" in N. Charleston, and I think the combination of the Noisette and Magnolia projects will turn that around in short order. I am already seeing interest being peaked in that area. I'd call it a boom.

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Yeah that Sheep Island Road area is expecting a huge amount of new homes and development, the people there are trying to incorporate so as to slow down the developments that will be taking place. Charleston is in for a lot of sprawl, though at the same time we will be seeing large urban infill developments taking place with the Magnolia area(soon as they are done cleaning the brownfields up and get the interstate situation figured out) and Noisette project.

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I would agree completely; Charleston is in the midst of a boom. Let's not forget about the consistent growth West Ashley as the new Walmart Supercenter traffic circle is built...more neighborhoods are being built out there. Hospitals are adding on additional floors (St. Francis) and the West Ashley Town Center will start gaining more tenants with prime retail space. There's also MUSC's expansion, which will be needed more than ever as more people move there.

Good points about Noisette and Magnolia. The new bridge is the impetus for these projects, and Charleston is going to gain dense urban development there...just constant additions to the population.

Again, I'm excited about the next census. It is going to open a few eyes into how big Charleston really is and will be.

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Definitely about West Ashley, the way I see it Dorchester and Berkeley Counties will be seeing the largest percentage gains in the Charleston metro while West Ashley and East Cooper(and all of Charleston County basically) will see the larger actual number of people gains.

I think every single major hospital in the Charleston metro is undergoing upgrades/expansions or is in the planning stages of it(east cooper.) Which is a fairly strong indicator of current population trends and projections.

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I do not foresee any of the SC big three booming with growth rates like Charlotte, Raleigh, or Atlanta any time soon (in a decade or two, who knows), but I do think all three will have healthy growth. If I were a betting man (which I am not), I would wager that metro Charleston will have a greater percentage population growth than either metro Columbia or metro Greenville over the next decade or so, though the difference would not be that great. I think people really do underestimate Charleston. It is not a tourist town like Myrtle Beach. It is much more diversified economically as previous posts have pointed out. The historic atmosphere adds a uniqueness and authenticity, and the coastal location is another big plus for many people. MUSC's presence could help the city develop biotech industries. The region has had some success already attracting some high tech companies. The College of Charleston has grown into one of the largest state universities in SC. If you buy Richard Florida's creative class theories (and granted they are only theories), I would say Charleston should have plenty of potential to attach young professionals in addition to retirees. I am really interested to see the future development of Charleston. While a lot it will be the same old sprawl, there are a number of potentially great urban redevelopment and new urbanist projects that could be groundbreakers for SC.

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MikesLogic and UrbanSoutherner, both of you make some good points. Hospital growth is almost ALWAYS a good indicator of how the area is growing. Sure, you can modernize facilities, but adding floors, wings, and new towers (MUSC, with 2 taller bed towers planned) accurately shows population trends since health care is one of the most important amenities for residents.

I disagree with you, Urban, on one point and you even alluded to my opinion later in your post: Charleston could very well start having growth rates such as Raleigh or Charlotte and people still underestimate my hometown. Many northern transplants have moved down there for jobs, but there are a few people from places like Atlanta who moved to Charleston because they were discontent with how the city developed. And with new urbanist developments such as Noisette and Magnolia being emphasized, the city won't grow like Atlanta or Charlotte, but it sure might get to their level.

There was an article in the Charleston City Paper that said with all of the high-density projects in the Neck area and the developments in annexed areas such as Daniel Island, Cainhoy, and West Ashley, the city's population alone could be 200,000 - 300,000 by the year 2015. I never would have imagined that 10 years ago.

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That is an interesting fact. But how much of that growth is just annexations, and how much is part of th large metro area's growth. If indeed there is that much growth expected in Charleston (not counting the suburban areas) then the rest of the area could be in for a bit of a shock.

Does anyone know if a master plan for Daniel Island exists online?

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Master Plan...not sure try looking under Guggenheim Foundation....but Daniel Island is very built up already. The town center is really taking shape. They are finishing the second golf course now and selling off the residential lots...and tons of condos/apartments are under construction. Home prices now starting at around $500K...not too shabby.

I still want to know where all of these people work....LOL :)

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I know a good bit of people that live on Daniel Island work in R&D and medical practices.

You can get the actual master plan for Daniel Island from Charleston city planners but it costs. Not sure of where to find it on the net if it is even available on the net. These give a nice view of what has already been completed though:

http://www.danielisland.com/pdf/southmap.pdf

http://www.danielisland.com/pdf/northmap.pdf

http://www.danielisland.com/pdf/downtown.pdf

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MikesLogic and UrbanSoutherner, both of you make some good points. Hospital growth is almost ALWAYS a good indicator of how the area is growing. Sure, you can modernize facilities, but adding floors, wings, and new towers (MUSC, with 2 taller bed towers planned) accurately shows population trends since health care is one of the most important amenities for residents.

MUSC not only provides healthcare to the residents of the Charleston area, but is the premier healthcare facility in the entire state and draw patients from all over South Carolina and for certain specialities from other countries or distant parts of the US. MUSC is really establshing itself as one of the premier healthcare/research facilities in the Southeast. Its easy to understand whay so many clinicians and researchers are attracted to the Charleston area -- its a great place to live. Once concern though in regards to further development of research capabilities at MUSC (and across the country) are recent cutbacks from the State and limited federal funding.

Hospital growth is a good indicator of population growth and all of the hospitals in the area are obviously doing well. It also attests to major health disparities and serious health concerns in our state (obesity, hypertension, stroke, diabetes). This is a nationwide problem, but is especially problematic in the Lowcountry.

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MUSC not only provides healthcare to the residents of the Charleston area, but is the premier healthcare facility in the entire state and draw patients from all over South Carolina and for certain specialities from other countries or distant parts of the US. MUSC is really establshing itself as one of the premier healthcare/research facilities in the Southeast. Its easy to understand why so many clinicians and researchers are attracted to the Charleston area -- its a great place to live...

That is a great point. MUSC is indeed becoming a medical and research facility all to its own. Of course, the location is a highly attractive quality as well. It has been observed that many students who come to Charleston to attend MUSC end up staying there, for the most part, and establish families.

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That is a great point. MUSC is indeed becoming a medical and research facility all to its own. Of course, the location is a highly attractive quality as well. It has been observed that many students who come to Charleston to attend MUSC end up staying there, for the most part, and establish families.

Clemson bioengineering has also focused a lot of attention on developing research initiatives at MUSC. In fact, the new dental school building that will be built on Bee Street -- a portion of the building will be devoted to Clemson bioengineering. I'm hoping that eventually all of these research initiatives will spin off biotech companies. There are a few that have done that, but nothing high profile to date. I think Charleston has an opportunity to develop a strong biotech sector. However, I have also heard some criticisms as well. Unlike the Research Triangle there isn't a concentration of universities/research institutions here in Charleston. Critics say that although Charleston is a great place to live there isn't a large enough pool of skilled workers unlike Boston, San Francisco, and Research Triangle. However, I think as biotech companies start up it would be easy to attract people to Charleston. The state also tried to stimulate the biotech sector, but the problem is that most other states also have initiatives to attract or develop biotech companies, which makes it difficult. It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next 5-10 years.

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Here's an article in The Post and Courier which highlights some of Charleston's future growth concerns. It specifically speaks of land conservation and makes some comparisons with Asheville NC and Jacksonville FL as it regards growth in the future.

Really, the only solution I see for managing Charleston's future growth responsibly is regional cooperation. The peninsula outprices most working-class people, so they are forced to live in North Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, and Goose Creek. I'm not that familiar with the geography of greater Charleston, so I can't really speak about how I see present and future development encroaching preserved spaces (this is where some sort of schematic or interactive graphic would have really been helpful).

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I don't know too much about DT Jacksonville, but I would suspect that it may have similar problems to DT Charlotte. They have nice modern buildings that are bustling with people from 9-5 M-F, but on nights and weekends besides a few hot spots its a virtual ghost town. Whether true or not I have heard similar things about Jacksonville in the past -- rather sterile, corporate. Like I said I don't know much about Jacksonville, but Charlotte is starting to change that perception with a ton of new highrise condos, the completion of the new arena for the Bobcats and Checkers, light rail transit in the works, etc. Charlotte probably has one of the nicest, most modern DT in the SE. With an influx of people restuarants and clubs will soon follow and so I think we will see a much improved atmosphere DT. Probably a similar process is also taking place in Jacksonville. There just seems to be a general trend towards DT urban living nationwide and throughout the Southeast especially.

To be honest, I also don't see a lot of similarities between Asheville and Charleston. Maybe on a certain level, but IMO I think we are more dislike than we are alike. I think that is what makes both communities attractive -- differing charms.

I think here in Charleston we have a different/mixed-bag type of situation. People want to live DT, but it so expensive. I think we can divide DT Charleston into two sectors (maybe I am oversimplifying things). 1.) South of Broad where real estate is SUPER expensive a lot of the homes are vacation homes and the owners are absent most of the time. I have heard of people say that the sense of community has been lost in parts of DT. This may not be such a big deal since this tends to be the touristy part of the city. There are always people milling around looking at the gardens and old houses along the Battery and the restuarants and clubs along Market St. keep this side of town active and alive. 2.) Calhoun Street/Upper King Street area where a lot of young professionals live/work and there is a large college community. Real estate is also pricey in this area, but it is more realisitc for young professionals to afford. New condos near the aquarium seem to be selling like hotcakes and are going for $600K and up. Most of the new development and the real heart of the city seems to be progressively trending northward up King Street.

When we develop a true urban core, I think it will develop differently from other communities. We are a unique community with many different variables at work: historical preservation, tourism, retirees, large college/university communities, young professionals, etc. I also think the general limited availability of land will cause development to be very dense especially in the Neck area where an urban core may spring up. Its an exciting time to live in Charleston. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes other cities have made.

One last thing... I hope we develop a transit plan SOON. We need to be more proactive in this regard.

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Comparing Charleston to Jacksonville is comparing apples to oranges. Check out the developments going on there in UP's Jacksonville section sometime.

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