It's not often that a developer gets the chance to start from scratch in the heart of a modern city — especially on the coast. But when it does happen, the opportunity tends to inspire bold ideas. That is certainly the case with the "Lorelei" project on Laurel Island in Charleston, S.C. Located close to the old city of Charleston on the bank of the Cooper River (see Google map), Laurel Island is virtually a blank slate. And that's exciting for the "new urbanist" design team tasked with creating a new community out of whole cloth. Anchoring the effort is development firm North American Properties, with input from top-tier consultants Andres Duany and Jeff Speck.
The project is still in the brainstorming phase. But the brainstorming hit top gear this month, with a series of intensive design charrettes and public outreach by the the design and planning team. The Post and Courier has the story here (see: "Lorelei development taking shape this week," by Robert Behre). "A group of about 100 architects, developers, consultants, city staffers and others have filed in and out of planning sessions this week trying to give form to the Lorelei, a project proposed off the eastern edge of Romney Street," the paper reports. "Its 160 acres ultimately could include about 4,000 homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space."
Although it's empty now (except for the decaying remnants of a few old industrial structures), Laurel Island is not a natural area — far from it. "The island was made from dredge spoil, and later used as a landfill," noted Charleston's Live5News (see: "Vacant Laurel Island to see development," by Kolbie Satterfield). "This isn't nature. This is a landfill," Andres Duany commented in June (see: "Developers hope Laurel Island will become a 'delightful destination'," by Bill Burr). "So we're not destroying nature. Which normally, there's a lot of opposition to that. There are no nearby neighbors."
Almost anything, obviously, would be an upgrade. But the redevelopment team is thinking big. “We’re gonna look at everything from shrimp boats to crabbing docks to places to fish, places to do stand-up paddle board and kayaking and we really want it to be a broad array of ways for people to enjoy the water,” Lorelei Project executive LeGrand Elebash told Live5News. “We know we need something that is a robust main street, retail-oriented street. Food and beverage and shopping. But we want a mix of uses vertically. So we want residences and offices, loft offices above that main street retail. We really want to connect people to the waterfront,” Elebash said.
Jeff Speck (website) (Twitter) said, "We want to have a diversity of housing. We're also required by the city to do what I think any good developer would want to do, which is satisfy all different market segments. They'll be a great variety of housing types, and that will include affordable and attainable housing." (See: "From landfill to 'Lorelei,' get a sneak peek at the new Laurel Island," by Brodie Hart/ABC4News).
"Affordable" is a relative term, of course. "“I don’t know what their definition of affordable housing is," local Pat Sullivan commented to Live5News. "They said that fifteen percent of what they’re building will be affordable housing, but the price point is what really counts." The answers to questions like that will be a long time coming: Planning for the redevelopment is expected to take another two years, with construction continuing for ten years after that.