Three counties. 154 square miles. One big happy city formed from the merger of Charleston and North Charleston.

In November 2011, the City Paper ran a cover story on One Greater Charleston, the brainchild of local businessman Ed Pendarvis. “It only makes sense,” Pendarvis said at the time. “In bringing Charleston and North Charleston together, we create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It would be better for everyone.” He cited advantages such as increased lobbying power, a broader tax base, and consolidated municipal services.

For some reason, the idea hasn’t picked up much steam.

The new Charleston would be the biggest city in the state, with a population over 227,000. Pendarvis proposes that, during the initial transition years, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. would take turns running the show for a year at a time.

Let’s imagine that for a minute. The two mayors are, by all accounts, on friendly terms. But politically, the North Charleston mayor who once flew the emblematic Gadsden flag of the Tea Party over City Hall might not get along so well with the Charleston mayor who has been called the most important Democrat in the state.

One year, Riley would ban smoking at all indoor businesses in the new Charleston; the next, Summey would repeal the prohibition, striking a blow for North Charleston-style liberty. Summey would get in another legal brawl with Palmetto Railways, and then Riley would have to patch things up with state government to boost the Port of Charleston.

And just imagine the combined Christmas parade: Would Radio Free Rocky D, dressed in Pimp Santa Claus regalia, strut his stuff on downtown streets? How would blue-collar North Charlestonians react to a hifalutin tree lighting in the middle of Park Circle, complete with hired giraffes?

Blue-collar North Charleston and tourist-friendly South Charleston could make for an odd couple, but the dream is still alive. To read more about Pendarvis’ vision, visit onegreatercharleston.com.

Be sure to check out more from our “What If…” Year-End Double Issue

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