Remember when people built new houses? Back in simpler times when words like "underwater" and "subprime" meant swimming and bad beef? Well, the good times are coming back — or at least the developers of Mixson are counting on it.
The neighborhood, off of Mixson Avenue near North Charleston's Park Circle, is scheduled to build 22 single-family houses, 10 townhouse lots, and a phase of apartments in 2013, part of a long-term plan to build 650 single- and multiple-family homes. Also in the works: the Mixson Bath & Racquet Club, complete with saltwater swimming pool, badminton and bocce courts, and a full-service restaurant and bar. And last Friday, the new Mixson Market opened its doors, offering gourmet coffee, charcuterie, sandwiches, and a beer-and-wine growler station.
"The world is a lot brighter today than when things fell apart," says Harvey Wadsworth, the newly minted vice president of development at Jamestown Properties, the company behind Mixson. Perhaps a half-dozen Jamestown employees were gathered in the Mixson Market for its opening morning Friday, and Wadsworth and Vice President of Development and Marketing Jodi Mansbach were talking a lot about a concept called new urbanism.
Originally planned in partnership with Vince Graham, the brains behind the I'On Village in Mt. Pleasant, Mixson was a poster child for what Mansbach calls New Urbanism 1.0. As a reaction to exurban sprawl and Stepfordized subdivisions, it placed emphasis on mixed-use property, dense development to encourage walking, ample public spaces, and green building standards. New Urbanism 2.0 is much the same, she says, but the new parts of Mixson will include a few changes — particularly, less of an emphasis on retail and more housing built right up to the street. In fact, the new apartment buildings will look directly onto newly finished sidewalks from both sides of Mixson Avenue. Jamestown has already gotten approval from the city for a planned urban development that includes plenty of multi-family housing, which is in higher demand now than in 2009 when the first Mixson houses went up.
"In the wake of the crash and coming back up," Mansbach says, "everybody looks around, and you look at your portfolio, and you try to figure, where do you want to spend your time, your resources, your people, and your money?"
"It's a general bullishness on Charleston," adds Wadsworth.
Jamestown built 18 houses in the first phase of development, with a closely packed array of architecturally unique townhomes in the middle of Mixson's 44-acre expanse. New construction went on hiatus for years as the recession ran its course, but Jamestown events coordinator Thea Anderson made the most of its open fields, bringing in sizable crowds for events including food truck rodeos, a monthly Maker's Market, and an outdoor movie night with the Greater Park Circle Film Society.
"We always knew we were going to do something big here," Mansbach says. "We're trying to make this area the Brooklyn of Charleston."