Photo courtesy The Beach Company

News yesterday that retail giant Target will become lower King Street’s biggest new tenant prompted quick mental calculations among downtown residents, workers and visitors. Target? On King Street?

To some, Target will provide a walkable outlet for essentials in an area spotted with restaurants, antique shops and clothing retailers — the King and Market space previously housed Saks Fifth Avenue and Forever 21, which closed last year. To others, the big-box store is yet another force that could crank up commercial rents even more as some local owners opt to look elsewhere.

“We are not shocked by the news of Target coming in and are not naïve to the reality that some small businesses in that area likely see it as an attractive ‘anchor’ that may bring customers their way,” said Jordan Amaker, marketing and communications director for Lowcountry Local First. “That’s a win, if that happens.”

But, Amaker said, if a shopper knows they can go into one place for all their needs, rather than stop at a few mom-and-pops along the way, many will favor the convenience of the one-stop-shop. “So we worry about the corner stores, bodegas, local clothing stores and shops like Half-Moon Outfitters who serve the community in so many ways,” she said.

Half-Moon Outfitters owner Beezer Molton has seen plenty of businesses come and go since opening the first Half-Moon downtown in 1991. Now with eight locations and a ninth on the way in Summerville, Molton said empty storefronts nearby can be a killer.

“Long-term vacancy is terrible,” Molton said. “Hopefully, we’ve had enough of a correction on King Street to open the door for some for some local retailers, like a young version of Half-Moon.”

Molton said he’s optimistic Target could revitalize shopping near his 280 King St. store, open since 2001.

“While it might not be a local retailer, it’s going to help some locals not get in their cars,” he told the City Paper. “To be a College of Charleston student or a peninsula student and be able to walk to a Target or ride a bike to a Target, I think, is huge.”

Whether customers drive, walk or bike there, transportation advocate Katie Zimmerman, leader of Charleston Moves, said Target and the city should make sure people are top priority, whether they are walking into Target or just passing by.

“King and Market streets and their associated land uses should absolutely be designed with a people-first approach,” said Zimmerman, “especially considering the high volume of pedestrian traffic in the area already, the bus stop at that corner and the fact that the King Street corridor is one of the top 10 most dangerous in South Carolina for people on bikes and foot.”

Working with Target to implement elements of the city’s People Pedal Plan nearby could help alleviate congestion and ensure safety.

“Their investment in these improvements would protect vulnerable road users and significantly enhance equitable access in this area,” she said.

Lowcountry Local First said it will keep working with entrepreneurs to make sure areas like King Street remain accessible to small businesses.

“We will continue to provide solutions and evidence to our leaders and elected officials on how to level the playing field for local businesses so they can continue to compete and thrive,” Amaker said. “Ways to remove red tape, provide incentives and implement creative policies are presented regularly to our municipalities.”

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