Tri-County Construction Quarterly Highlights Increase in Permit Values

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CONSTRUCTION QUARTERLY HIGHLIGHTS INCREASE IN PERMIT VALUES TOTAL CONSTRUCTION VALUES UP BY NEARLY $32M IN Q2

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (Sept. 24, 2018) – Total construction permit values in the tri-county area increased by $31.6 million, or about four percent, to $737 million during the second quarter of 2018, according to data recently released by the by the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG).

Other key takeaways from the Council of Governments Q2 Construction Quarterly report include:

  • Commercial construction permit values increased by 46% ($73 million)

  • New construction permit values increased 3% ($21.9 million)

  • Single Family permit values increased 14% ($57.7 million)

Construction Quarterly provides a detailed analysis of the construction trends in the region. Sectors analyzed include commercial, single family, single-family attached, multi-family, and renovation construction.

“We continue to see positive growth in permit values across most types of construction in the region, which is a sign of ongoing economic momentum,” said BCDCOG planning director Kathryn Basha.

The full report can be viewed here.

ABOUT BCDCOG:
The?BCDCOG?is a voluntary association of, by and for local governments, and was established to assist Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester county leaders in planning for common needs, cooperating for mutual benefit, and coordinating for sound regional development.?BCDCOG’s purpose is to strengthen the individual and collective power of local governments and to help them recognize regional opportunities, eliminate unnecessary duplication, and make joint decisions. For the latest on?BCDCOG, visit?www.bcdcog.com, like us on?Facebook?or follow on Twitter at?@BCDCOG.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Daniel Brock
Rawle Murdy Associates
(919) 820-2612
dbrock@rawlemurdy.com

 

A Letter of Caution to Charleston and neighboring communities

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By Mark A. Leon

This commentary is brushed with admiration and fueled by optimism, but must be posed with an air of caution, because with change comes adjustment; with adjustment, comes resistance.? Given the rapidly changing landscape, education and acceptance are critical for ensuring a positive future for Charleston.

Last week, a story broke centering around an attack on a transgender female outside a downtown Charleston nightclub.? This led to questions on whether this was a targeted attack.? Yet, a hush remains over the community.? As an active resident for many years, I have observed some clear cultural practices:

  • This is a culture that bottles up emotion and works hard to “not” rock the boat
  • There is limited government activism and strength in rallying over a cause
  • There is deeply embedded resentment and separation between rich and poor; black and white

We hear that Charleston is the friendliest city in the country and one of the top destinations for new residents and career opportunities, but look at some other issues that will arise as we continue to become one of the fastest growing regions in the South and the country.

  • If Charleston is one of the friendliest and most welcome cities in the country, why did the government feel the need to apologize for slavery, an act that was abolished over 150 years ago?
  • If it is necessary to remove slavery from our historic story line, why are housing communities still called “plantations”, the term or location that many associate with slavery?
  • The hottest area of economic growth in the Lowcountry is construction. With that, we are seeing more and more migrant and immigrant workers.? Is this community comfortable with that?
  • With the career opportunity growth and South Carolina ranked one of the lowest in the nation in academic standards, how we will fill those much-needed skilled roles to meet the demands of the area? This question becomes even more critical with the recent announcement of the new Google Data Center and the existence of over 250 active start-ups.
  • In the latest census, Charleston County residency is 95.7% white and black.? A demographic shift will change significantly in the next 10 plus years.? How is the city going to adjust?
  • We currently have a commuting traffic issue in the city metro. With Volvo, Nexton and the expansion West of Summerville, this will create a second bottleneck of traffic on 26.? How is this being addressed?
  • As traffic issues continue to mount, the infrastructure changes to more modern architectural design and the fight against unfair treatment of the carriage horses mount, will the historic Southern culture of Charleston soon be gone?
  • Can the Lowcountry survive with the increased pressures of new development and resident growth, while we still cannot solve the issue of flooding and poor water quality?

These are questions that have run through the minds of many and unfortunately, we seem to be allowing our local governments free reign to capitalize on changes without taking steps to solidify the future.? The future is being compromised and contrary to what government and media is saying, it I not for the better.

More tourists, more money, increased costs and more homes are not always the right direction of progress.? In addition, progress does takes time.? The rate we are progressing is not healthy.

I hope we start to organize and stand in numbers as one voice to either slow down change or prepare for the future.? If not for us, for our children.

When Art Loses to Development in Charleston

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By Mark A. Leon

For those of you that have spent time or live in the James Island area, you are all too familiar with the strip mall that housed the old Cha Cha’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar and Rogue Motion, now in the hear of West Ashley.? That was a place that still holds special memories for me.? A place where I established new friendships that remain today.? That piece of real estate between Gold’s Gym and the Brick House Kitchen is nothing more than piles of rubble now, making way for a new look and feel of James Island and Charleston.

Yet, behind the rubble, lies a reminder of some of the creative street art that has given Charleston is creative flavor and unique voice.? These remains, are another reminder of a different time, a different place, where the dollar wasn’t the dominate force that drove the decisions in this community.

This was a time and place where community, affordability, art and music, family and tradition were our foundation.

Today, we walked the grounds one last time to say goodbye to another piece of our history as we await the likes of a Target Store to reinforce the new landscape of Charleston.

A new downtown hotel and student abuse at the College of Charleston – Headlines from the Top US City

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By Mark A. Leon

A new 18 room hotel was unanimously approved for the old Bob Ellis location on King Street and the fifth College of Charleston fraternity was shut down in a year with this recent one involving acts or misconduct allegedly including abuse of a student.

Meanwhile in Conde Nast land, Charleston continues its reign as the #1 city in the United States.

Let us for a moment overly simplify this.? I apologize for the lack of complexity, but sometimes you need to be transparent and simple.? These bullet points should illustrate a growing number of concerns that we cannot turn a blind eye to.

  • Charleston has not ranked in the top five tourist cities in the United States or world in any other annual survey other than Travel & Leisure.
  • The voters are tourists that spend an average of 1 to 4 days in Charleston annually or just one isolated visit.
  • A small group is “raising” awareness of a new rising of the South with peaceful demonstrations of flag waving and graffiti, but we claim to not have issues around race.
  • Have there been any investigations into the conditions the construction workers that are working in extreme heat putting up all these new developments in record time to capitalize on the overwhelming rise in demand and prices in Charleston County and surrounding areas?
  • In a recent article, we recommended subsidized parking for locals that work downtown. Thank you to the College of Charleston and their survey team by bringing attention to this issue and reinforcing that local livability is taking a back seat.
  • Why is our local city and county government, knowing that there is active construction on Upper King, Crosstown, Lockwood, Upper Meeting, Medical District and areas around The Battery, not doing a single thing to curtail the development? That is the million-dollar question that remains.

Is all this for the hard-working residents that commute long hours every day, suffer wear on their vehicles from a damaged road system, struggle to pay monthly rent and expenses and refusing to come to a city that preaches shop local, buy local?

In a city that can be crippled by an icy bridge, a netting falling from a bridge top or a single massive accident, it is time to ask some serious questions and more importantly, get answers.

When will historic Charleston return to the look and feel of a city that once was the shining star of the South?

Charleston, SC Lacks A Soul and Backbone

By Mark A. Leon

The headlines read, “the end of an era” and “progress is upon us”.? We have heard those words time and time again over the last two years as more and more legacy businesses have fallen.

This week we learned that on the day a major developer signed the paper work to take over the property of the James Island Carmike Cinema, the theater was closed and all staff were immediately out of jobs.? Several companies invested $100M into two apartment developments on Upper King and Spring continuing the expansion North.? Nearly $50M has been invested into seven new area storage facilities.? The cost of living in Charleston, SC is 31% ahead of the national average and 51% above of the remainder of South Carolina.? Is this growth and pace healthy?

Yet with the hundreds of millions of dollars put into the “progress” of the city, the average Charleston driver is spending $1850 annually on car repairs due to bad roads.

At the end of the day, the definition of progress in Charleston is simple:? Bring in tourists and revenue and put your own citizens in the corner to suffer.? That is where the lack of passion and soul comes to the forefront.? We have elected officials that we have chosen to represent us and council meetings that hear requests for zoning modifications and approvals monthly.? How many step up and force the hand of our elected officials and say “Stop, we have had enough”?? Power in numbers is what drives change and we just aren’t there.? We have a responsibility to let our voice be heard and in numbers.? Off the cuff comments and unsubstantiated gripes on social while we hide behind our smartphones and desktops will not ignite change.

I recently spent time in Southern California and Lower Manhattan and experienced two vibrant cultures showered in individual expressiveness, warmth and an edgy, yet relaxed sense of comfort.? Two places basking in the arts and culture, fired by the loins to take-action and fulfilled with a sense of community support.? Both these areas have tourism boards and self-proclaimed proponents of the amenities they offer, yet the one element they lack is the in your face bragging that has saturated the Charleston culture.

In a recent Travel & Leisure piece naming the top 100 restaurants in the world, not one Charleston restaurant made the list, yet we prominently brag of our dominance in the foodie world.? It is evident based on the percentage of visual posts on social dedicated exclusively to food.? Chefs are celebrities and the prominent wealthy will drop hundreds to say they experienced what is claimed to be the best.

While at the same time, an entire tent city of homeless is wiped out.

Also, when we make it on some digital or print publication’s top list, regardless of whether we are 15, 33, 45 or 80, it is a moment of celebration.? I’ve often questioned, at what level on a list is a city worthy of celebration.? Then again, do we need to celebrate or can we take comfort in knowing we earned something special?

We claim to have the best Southern chefs in the country; the most promising BBQ scene around and the most creative menus this side of the Mason Dixon.? Yet we lack diversity in food in every sense of the word on the peninsula.? How many Vietnamese, Malaysian, Korean, Dutch, Brazilian or Peruvian themed restaurants are on the peninsula?

Let us move away from the food topic for just a moment, away from the numerous pop up companies promoting tee-shirts, hats, towels, blankets, Instagram accounts and anything that regards Charleston as “Heaven” and focus on the soul of this city.

Without the benefit of chatter trends, it is clear many have openly vocalized their distaste for increased traffic issues (with the supporters sticking to “It’s far worse in New York, San Francisco and Chicago), population growth and cost of living tsunami that has hit Charleston in the last five years.? Yet, how many attend the zoning ordinance meetings that vote on approval of all this new construction?

We want Charleston to remain quiet, historic and full of its “Southern Charm”, yet we don’t use the voice we are given when we elect our city and county officials.

For those of you that have ever been involved in a protest, it has value.? It is a collective public voice promoting change.? Its core values date back thousands of years and it has served to ignite some of the most important movements in history.? It fuels the engine of process.? How many protests have you witnessed in your lifetime in Charleston?? For those that are going to say the Unity Walk for Mother Emanuel or the Woman’s March, those were events of solidarity and unity, not protests for change.? The Charleston Five was a protest and that set a fire that carried all the way to Columbia.

I would like to shift gears once more and look at priorities in Charleston.? These are the top priorities as I see them from monitoring trends online:

  • Restaurants
  • Beaches
  • Windows and architecture
  • Festivals
  • Drinking (We do have the #1 seller of PBR in the US and as many breweries as shopping centers)
  • Dogs
  • Shopping

I welcome the debate, but I don’t see the following as high priorities

  • Education
  • Cost of Living
  • Roads and infrastructure concerns
  • Career opportunities and growth
  • Public safety
  • Flooding

In fact, we turn our heads to negative as if it doesn’t exist.

At the blink of an eye, we are missing a community that is ready to explode with a creative renaissance and a thirst to promote change in conservationism, the arts, homeless support, coastal restoration and technology.? From the thriving theatre district that struggles to fill shows outside the spotlight of Spoleto to the incredible work being done for sea turtle rehabilitation and dog rescue to a poetry scene that has elements of Greenwich Village in the 1960’s when singers, poets and activists united.

Charleston wants to show the world that we care about our planet and all its creatures, have a creative force that could compete worldwide and want to show a community committed to sharing, equal rights and support.

We are desperately missing the boat and we aren’t even interested in trying.

The numbers do not lie.? Charleston is one of the fastest growing cities in the South and becoming one of the fastest growing in the United States.? The cost of housing is 31 basis points above the United States average index and 51 basis points above the South Carolina average.? Classrooms are overcrowded, tourism has taken over as the top priority, yet we mask marketing media around “buy local”.? The historic societies fought behind the scenes for over 200 years to keep the peninsula’s rich history and esthetics intact and after one year, we have a mayor that has destroyed this blueprint.

It is fine, because we are Charleston nice.? We will continue to say good day to you, nod our heads and smile because that is who we are.? Southern charm is alive and well in the South.? I just wish we would look in the mirror and try to find the heart and soul to fight for a city we used to love.

Is Mayor Tecklenburg’s Promise of “Livability” Real or a Hoax

Waterfront Park

By Mark A. Leon

Just over a year later, we look back at a promise.? During the Mayoral campaign that took two voting days to decide, Mayor John Tecklenburg stood behind the promise of making Charleston “livable” again.? It was a bold statement with much room for interpretation.

Now, we look to today and the future, and it has become clear that “livability” is not about the citizens that have chosen to live their days here in Charleston, but the tourists and the developers that are reaping the rewards of this once great city.

The politicians, media and tourism boards have boasted the year over year increases in tourism and high hotel occupancy rates.? What they haven’t spoken to is the flat GDP of just over 2%.? With double figure increases in tourism traffic and low economic growth, the indicator is that local residents are not coming to Historic Charleston as frequently as they once did.

This is also evident in the closing of local Charleston foundations including Morris Sokol, Hughes Lumber and Bob Ellis Shoes (stores that would be frequented by locals, not tourists).

In 2009, I would work from my downtown apartment on Morris Street for miles and take in esthetic beauty in all directions.? There were pockets of crowds and carriages all around, but that was part of the ambiance of this city.? What was not prevalent were orange cones, deep roadway damage, cranes and endless high rise construction in every major part of the city.? From Joe Riley Stadium, to MUSC, East Bay, King Street, Meeting Street and Broad Street.? This city is being attacked from all directions with the simple goal:? Make a few major developers and investors very wealthy.

Simply put, we are no longer in control of our city.

All the perks of being a local have been compromised and here is how we are suffering:

  • Parking garage rates have increased
  • Most residential parking is now only 1 hour for non-residents 24 hours a day
  • Restaurant tax is 10.5% for food / 15% for alcohol
  • The East Side lost its only means of groceries

Several weeks ago, a group of business owners met to finance free bus service for residents of the East Side to go to Mount Pleasant and Northern Charleston for groceries because their BiLo (Former Piggly Wiggly) closed-down.? Instead of celebrating this generous act, why aren’t we looking at why it wasn’t kept open in the first place.

Cistern Yard – College of Charleston

The Westside Neighborhood has trees uprooted from the sidewalk that are being ignored from the last devastating storm.

Yet, simultaneously,

  • A 1.2 billion-dollar development is going up on Upper Meeting
  • A new hotel is in development to compliment the newly launched hotel on Upper King
  • ?A new housing development is being built on Upper Meeting and Huger Street
  • Lockwood is setting the foundation for a new development
  • A new shopping and dining complex is under construction across from Joe Riley Stadium
  • Sergeant Jasper could see new community rise if all provisions are met.
  • Construction continues on the new MUSC Children’s Hospital
  • Approvals are being finalized for a new bank building on the corner of Calhoun and Meeting
  • King Street is closed off from the Crosstown for the next two years
  • Infrastructure and building construction on the College of Charleston campus

Several days ago, we joked that Charleston was no longer the “Holy City” but the “Crane City”.? Humor aside, there is a fear brewing in Charleston and we are on the sidelines without a means of getting in the game.

We have heard many speak on the social forums that they want the Northerners to stop moving here, yet Charleston is starting to look more like New York or Cleveland than Savannah or Beaufort.

As citizens of Charleston, we will not see our skyline or traffic alleviation from construction projects until 2020 or beyond.? Is that what we signed up for when we were promised “livability”?

We have a voice Charleston.? Maybe, it is time we start looking for answers.? We have local officials whom you have voted in to speak on our behalf.? Utilize them.

Spring Street