Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Is King St. one of America's great streets or an urban nightmare?

A Tale of Two Streets

Posted by Chris Haire on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 6:40 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR USER MOUNTAINBREAD
  • Flickr user mountainbread
The signs are all there. Ebola. Never-ending wars in the Middle East. The strange and tragic transformation of our gridiron heroes from noble warriors into loathsome wife-beating brutes. The elevation of Queen Elsa of Arendelle into the modern-day golden calf of the pre-teen set. The curious absence of Miley Cyrus from any pop-culture conversation. The strange fact that no one you know watches The Big Bang Theory, Mike and Molly, and Two and a Half Men and yet the three Chuck Lorre shows remain on the air. The defeat of No. 3 ranked Alabama by No. 11 ranked Mississippi. The answer is clear. The end times are here.

But it’s not for the world at large. Or even the good ole United States of American. Anyone one who suggests otherwise is reading the signs all wrong. The truth is, the end of the world is taking place on a much smaller scale. In fact, it’s happening right here in the Holy City.

Now, before you begin to fret, know this: the apocalypse isn’t coming to South of Broad. It won’t be wrecking havoc on Rainbow Row. Heck, even the DMZ known as America Street will be spared. When it comes right down to it, the apocalypse is coming to one street and one street only: King.

Or at least that’s what Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., City Planner Tim Keane, Police Chief Greg Mullen, the vast majority of City Council, and the nimby-minded nincompoops that make up the various neighborhood associations adjacent to King believe. And in their opinion, the only to turn back the tides of our present armageddon is to pass a draconian new ordinance forbidding any new bars and restaurants to serve alcohol after midnight.

But here’s the odd thing: the American Planning Association, the nation’s leading community planning organization, recently named King Street one of the 10 great streets in America, putting it next to the likes of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. and Broadway in New York City. Impressive, right?

In APA’s write up, the APA heaped praise upon praise on King. The APA proclaimed that “King Street offers a little something for everyone” and then added “King Street is bustling with life around the clock with the College of Charleston a few steps away, and nearly 4.8 million visitors come to Charleston each year.” Around the clock, eh? They say that like it’s a good thing.

But not once did the APA mention any of the problems that Mayor Riley, Chief Mullen, and the others claim are destroying this fabled stretch of roadway. Not once did the APA bemoan the lack of retail on Upper King. Not once did they mention rising arrest rates and a general unruliness. Not once did they mention vomit on the streets, acts of public urination, and the masses of drunken revelers stumbling down neighborhoods streets after last call. Either these things aren’t actually a problem or the folks at APA don’t know dick about King Street.

While the APA might, in fact, be aware of King Street in only the most superficial of ways, the same can’t be said of the fine folks at the College of Charleston’s Urban Studies Program. This group of professors and students sent out a press release explaining exactly why the planning association chose King Street to be one of the nation’s finest.

Kendra Stewart, director of the Joseph P. Riley Center for Livable Communities, noted that “King Street brings the vibrancy of the city right into the heart of the College of Charleston,” while history professor Lisa Pinley Covert said, “King Street’s food scene captures the dynamism and creative energy of the city. There is so much to explore from the diverse offerings at the weekend Farmer’s Market to the upscale restaurants and the classic Lowcountry Sunday brunch spots.”

Moreover, the professors and students of the Urban Studies Program seemed to not only think there was a good balance between the types of business on King Street, they practically wore themselves out praising the street for what is presently is. For economics professor Chris Mothorpe, “King Street serves as the vital artery of the historic downtown Charleston area. Businesses and restaurants have located along the street to form an agglomerate that offers services to a diverse set of people and firms. This collection of institutions in close proximity to each other promotes even higher levels of social interactions.”

Meanwhile, Melinda Lucka, a urban studies students says, “I love the variety of King Street: Upper King with its design businesses, consignment stores, funky shops, and the mix of restaurants; Lower King and its antique stores, art galleries, and higher-end stores; Marion Square, the centerpiece between the two arms of King, offering open space and a wonderful venue for music, art, occasional movies, and the Farmer’s Market.”

And then there’s urban planning graduate student Ron Hanna II, who says, “King Street effectively combines residential development with commercial, without losing the overall feeling generated by years of history. King Street is smart growth, which has occurred naturally due to the geographic constraints of the Charleston peninsula.”

Smart growth? Interesting.

So which is it, Charleston? Is King Street truly one of America’s great streets or a living nightmare? It certainly can’t be both.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

Classified Listings

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2018, Charleston City Paper   RSS