[image-1]Ten stories. That’s the potential height of buildings in the Morrison Drive area, according to a plan unveiled by City of Charleston at a public meeting on Wednesday. At the meeting, city officials discussed the creation of a special zoning district for the rapidly redeveloping NoMo corridor — with an eye on creating a population dense area. However, some current residents are concerned about the so-called Charleston Upper Peninsula Initiative.

City planning director Tim Keane told attendees at the meeting — held at the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 — that creation of the new zoning district would be an attempt to address the peninsula’s population explosion, with the number of Charleston’s residents expected to increase from around 134,000 to near 200,000 over the next 15 years. 

“With all of the growth occurring within South Carolina,” says Keane, “we’d like for people to want to live in Charleston.”
According to the initiative, not every proposed building could be 10-stories tall. With a baseline restriction of four stories, only developers who could provide an undetermined number of key amenities to the area would received approval to build as high as 10 stories. The city calls this an incentive-based system, Charleston senior planner Katie McKain said there are multiple options developers can provide, from building workforce housing to offering affordable commercial space geared toward local businesses, public parks, and green roofs.

“We can save not only energy with these [options],” says McKain, “but also money.”

With dozens of citizens in attendance, many NoMo residents expressed concern about how the new zoning district and growth would affect their current homes. Pastor Alma Dungee spoke about the need for more affordable housing, noting the lack of such housing for much of Charleston’s downtown workforce. Many other attendees expressed the same sentiment, saying that much of Charleston’s growth and subsequent tax and price increases would essentially push longtime citizens out of downtown and into areas such as North Charleston.

Keane attempted to calm their fears. “The [zoning district] won’t solve the problem of housing affordability in Downtown Charleston,” responded Keane, “but it can help.”

Various citizens also expressed concerns about a lack of parking in the area — particularly in spots near their homes — and a lack of adequate public transportation. In response, Keane said the goal was to improve public transit throughout the city as it continues to grow. As for parking, the plan would allow parking garages and the like to be located up to 1,500 feet away from a respective building.

In an effort to create a more livable and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, the city would also encourage patios, businesses, and restaurants to be located on the street level.

The Charleston City Paper is located at 1049 Morrison Drive.