All Eyes on West Ashley

With new mayor in office, City Hall shifts its focus West

February 5, 2016
By Lorne Chambers | Editor

Last week was a big week for the future of West Ashley. Not only did the City of Charleston host a public forum discussing the future of the Dupont-Wappoo area, cleverly being called “DuWap,” but newly elected mayor John Tecklenburg spoke to about 120 local businessmen and women last Tuesday for the January meeting of the West Ashley-James Island Business Association (WAJIBA).

Before the new mayor was introduced outgoing WAJIBA president and local architect Dinos Liollio spotted former city councilmember Aubrey Alexander in the crowd. Liollio pointed out his friend and former St. Andrew’s High School classmate thanking him for his service to the West Ashley community. The crowd stood up to give Alexander a round of applause and a much deserved standing ovation.

At that point new WAJIBA president Kirk Matenaer had the pleasure of introducing the new mayor of the City of Charleston. Just one day after Teckenburg gave his first State of the City address, the local business community had come to hear what many felt was the unofficial “State of West Ashley” address.

The large crowd that packed the ballroom of the Town and Country Inn on Savannah Highway was tickled to hear the mayor of Charleston and West Ashley resident using the terms “We” and “Us” when talking about West Ashley. “No area is more ready for a renaissance than West Ashley and the West islands,” said Tecklenburg to the crowd who also gave him a standing ovation when introduced and applauded when he promised “West Ashley will become the crown jewel in the Cityscape of Charleston.”

Tecklenburg touted the new senior center, which will be built on the site of Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital. He also said a new Farmer’s Market would be created in West Ashley, before stressing his commitment to completing Interstate 526 and trying to fix traffic congestion along West Ashley’s major arteries.

Synchronizing traffic lights and improvements to the Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Hwy. 61 intersection was top on his list for improvements overdue for West Ashley, as well as looking at the flooding at Main Road and Savannah Highway.

“In addition to these traditional traffic and transportation initiatives, we need to think outside the box,” said Tecklenburg, even challenging the audience to bring their out-of-the-box ideas to the table. He says he plans to hold “open office hours” the first Thursday of every month, where citizens can come talk about anything they want.

According to Tecklenburg, one of his out-of-the-box ideas may be trying to get West Ashley High School to try a 9 a.m. starting time to help relieve pressure caused by getting to the school along Glenn McConnell Parkway and Bees Ferry Road.

The mayor was blunt and straight-forward when discussing strategic economic development for West Ashley. “I don’t think that we’ve kept up with East Cooper with the businesses we’ve brought here … And we could look a little better.”

Like many, Tecklenburg sees the redevelopment of the Citadel Mall as the central piece in revitalizing West Ashley. He used the Avondale community as a shining example of a “center that really works.” Tecklenburg says that Avondale has a real sense of community and works as a “gathering place,” making sure to draw a distinction between the idea of a “gathering place” from a zoning standpoint and the controversial project The Gathering Place, along Maybank Highway in James Island.

Tecklenburgpointed out that while about 25 percent of the accommodations tax money the city receives comes from West Ashley, that for the first time in the City’s history money from accommodations taxes is actually being used for a specific West Ashley initiative, with the purchase of two properties that will become city parks, both with views of the water. The first is the Bender Street property in the Ashleyville neighborhood and the second being the former WPAL radio station property off of Wappoo Road.

Tecklenburg also talked about bringing more than accommodations tax money to our side of the river. He said he was going to reach out to Piccolo Spoleto, MOJA, and other arts festivals about bringing some more cultural events West of the Ashley. He also said he’d like to have a specific “West Ashley Day.” He floated the idea of creating it in April to coincide with Founder’s Day at Charles Towne Landing. After all, it was in West Ashley where Charleston (and the state) was founded in the 1660s.