Snowpocalypse Wow!Falling Snow Teaches Planning Lesson in West Ashley
January 9, 2018
By Bill Davis | News Editorl
Snow may be a rare and beautiful thing here in the Lowcountry, but it can play havoc with West Ashley residents and the stores that they rely on. Except, that is, if they both live in a handful of “interconnected nodes” on this side of the river.
Well, the first sentence started nice, but the second one above ended dull. Here’s the skinny:
Snowmaggedon 2018 underlined the importance of having commercial centers surrounded by neighborhoods. In the Avondale section of town, joints like The Roost Bar & Grille, Charles Towne Fermentory, and VooDoo Tiki Bar and Lounge did a bang-up business as locals walked slippingly during some of the worst of the storm from their homes to these businesses’ stools.
At the brand-new Harris Teeter on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, the latest omen of West Ashley’s renaissance, long lines before, during, and after the snowfall spoke to the importance of customers being able to walk to the store.
The long lines were in stark contrast to an area the federal government labeled a near-“food desert,” where residents without cars had to walk miles to get their hands on fresh food. That desert used to stretch from Wappoo to Savage roads.
At Charles Towne Fermentory, head brewery Adam Goodwin and assistant brewery Justin Slotnick are no strangers to the snow. But the two New England natives sent the staff home before it the weather got too bad on Wednesday only to find themselves slammed as folks from the surrounding neighborhoods walked to the brewery.
While the roads were still covered in a sheet of ice, Voodoo general manager Caroline Smith-Adams walked 15 minutes to work last Thursday from her home to open the bar. She managed to open the popular Avondale watering hole, where she’s worked for the last dozen years, open for business at 1 p.m. and was soon packed.
“I only slipped once, but never fell,” said the native Charlestonian of her commute, having more luck getting around than those in cars. She made sure to close up shop at dark, so that those who’d been drinking wouldn’t have a dangerous time getting home.
Smith-Adams said the strong business Avondale spots were enjoying was due to locals getting “cabin fever” and wanting something to eat “that wasn’t canned or ramen.”
“What was really nice was seeing everyone out, not in cars, walking their dogs, talking to each other. It was really cool,” she said.
City planning and neighborhood czar Jacob Lindsey said, “West Ashley needs more places like Avondale, where residents have easy access to restaurants and services; it’s the same downtown.”
National urban planning consultant Victor Dover, who is working on the West Ashley master planning process, pointed out that “weather events tend to make everyday advantages of well-connected neighborhoods even more obvious.”
Dover: “It goes beyond being a little easier to snag a pizza and takeout in those rare times when the bridges and roads are out of commission, when you realize bundling up and walking is safer and more workable than driving.”
The “lucky folks” who live near Avondale found the storm a little easier to bear thanks to connectivity and sidewalks, and “laughed about tales of their families and the snow,” according to Dover.
“How much better would social connections and daily life be, if more West Ashley neighborhoods had their own version of Avondale?” asked Dover.
For once, County Councilman C. Brantley Moody completely agreed with Dover. Moody represents a wide swath of West Ashley and has been critical of portions of Dover’s assertions that the area needs more “bikes and buses” to solve its transportation woes.
“I would really like to see that happen,” said Moody, who loves to walk or ride his bike to the nearby Kickin’ Chicken and Manny’s Neighborhood Grille to eat and play trivia.
Moody said he sees two prime spots for the next Avondale: the former Piggly Wiggly at the intersection of Sam Rittenberg and Old Towne Road, and the razed Church Creek Plaza off Ashley River Road.
“If the city gets the Northbridge Pig right,” he says as he drove by the dormant grocery Friday afternoon, “it could be huge.”
The city has purchased the grocery and wants to turn that spot and the triangular spit of land behind it into a public park and traditional intersection, doing away with the “suicide merge” there.
“People living in Sandhurst right now can’t walk over there to get a burger,” says Moody who would like to see some sort of upfit at the Church Creek property.
Lindsey said the West Ashley Revitalization Committee’s recommendations will be addressed later this month at a special meeting of the city’s Planning Commission.