If you enjoy moving, you are a better person than I. The last week consisted of me, a truck full of boxes, four very helpful friends and way too much fast food leftovers. While I was breaking down my 47th box Tuesday morning, I remembered all the out-of-state folks who ask me about places to live in Charleston. Each question typically gets the same answer, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to run some numbers and give you a good breakdown of neighborhoods and cities in the Lowcountry.
Disclaimer: everything that is written below is in no way a scientific study. It is merely data that Gwen and I were able to pull up over lunch this afternoon.
First, there are several cities/towns that surround Charleston that have a reasonable commute. These are what I’ll focus on. They are: downtown Charleston, West Ashley, James Island, Mount Pleasant, Johns Island, North Charleston and Summerville.
Per Capita reported in the 2000 Census: $22,414
Two bedroom rental: $1096
MSA Residential Home Sales: Zip Code 29401: $1,173,870; Zip Code 29403: $375,071
Things to do
Downtown Charleston is rich with history, shopping, and food. You’ll find a unique blend of tourists, business professionals and college students traversing the streets. Marion Square is home to the downtown Farmer’s Market every Saturday during the summer, and King Street offers a wide array of restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. Downtown is most certainly one of the most walkable areas in all of the Lowcountry and probably one of my favorites.
Per capita: (West Ashley is part of Charleston County) $22,414
Two bedroom rental: $1082
MSA residential home sales: $254, 639
Things to do
West Ashley is a popular area for our graduate students. While it doesn’t have nearly the same amount of shops and restaurants that downtown offers, it does have a sweet charm about it. Especially around the Avondale/Savannah Highway area where you’ll find a few boutiques, coffee shops and a bar that offers more than a few darts and pool cues – anyone up for a vicious game of Connect Four? The area between West Ashley and Summerville is where you will find several plantations and gardens including Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Charles Towne Landing. Sidewalks are far and few in between, so I wouldn’t advise taking a walking tour of West Ashley.
Per capita: (James Island was part of Charleston County) $22,414
Two bedroom rental: $1111
MSA residential home sales: $277,873
Things to do
If you want to head out to the “Edge of America” (AKA Folly Beach), you have to go through James Island, and that’s not a bad thing. JI has its own little culture, including its own Facebook group for CARTA Express riders. Or so rumor has it; I have yet to find it. You won’t find strip malls, but you will find Fort Johnson (which is home to our Grice Marine Lab), the James Island County Park, and plenty of wildlife. I just moved out this way, and already feel like I’m on a permanent vacation.
The City of Folly Beach is incredibly popular, especially in the summer. Since there is only one road connecting Folly to James Island, you should definitely plan to head out to the beach early on the weekends. Otherwise, you’ll spend a good bit of time in traffic starting around 11:30. Once you’re out there, you can turn left and head towards the Washout to watch the surfers, go straight to walk on the second longest pier on the east coast, or go right for a little more room in the sand. Every now and then, you’ll catch a wedding in play. Much like the one we attended this past Saturday for our Director of Student Records, Regan.
Per Capita: $30,823
Two bedroom rental: $1109
MSA Residential Home Sales: $459,354
Things to do
According to Wikipedia, Mt. Pleasant is “the fifth largest municipality in South Carolina, and for several years it was one of the state’s fastest growing areas, literally doubling in population size between 1990 and 2000.” It is home to Patriot’s Point and the Yorktown, Boone Hall Plantation, awesome seafood dinners, and is probably the one of the most family-friendly areas around Charleston. Each year, thousands of avid walkers and runners line up at the starting line in Mount Pleasant for the annual Cooper River Bridge Run which finishes in downtown Charleston. Mount Pleasant definitely sees a lot of traffic, whether it’s to go shopping at the Town Center, enjoying happy hour at one of the many restaurants on Shem Creek, hitting the beaches of Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms, or strawberry picking at Boone Hall. It has a good blend of young professionals and residents who have raised their now-grown children.
Per Capita: not listed
Two bedroom rental: not listed
MSA Residential Home Sales: $451,524
Things to do
Johns Island is the fourth largest island on the east coast and is “predominantly rural in nature.” I admittedly know very little about the island, but everyone I know who lives out there loves it. What I can tell you though is that there are some amazing restaurants on the Island. If you’re ever out that way, be sure to make a reservation. You can also find Angel Oak on Johns Island. This Live Oak is the oldest thing (both natural and man-made) east of the Rockies, and is definitely something you want to see in person. The pictures never strike the same awe you get when you’re standing beneath its massive canopy.
Per Capita: $14,361
Two bedroom rental: $871
MSA Residential Home Sales: $199,354
Things to do
North Charleston is a growing city, and is gaining a lot of attention. According to Mayor Summey, “the June edition of Men’s Journal named the historic Park Circle neighborhood as one of the nation’s ‘Coolest Neighborhoods.’ This honor follows Cottage Living’s ‘Top Ten’ for the Noisette Community in 2008, along with Green Builder Magazine’s naming of Oak Terrace Preserve as one of the nation’s leading green neighborhoods last December.”
If you take the train or fly into Charleston, you will begin your visit in North Charleston. And you really won’t have to leave the area. Many of Charleston’s hotels are based in the north area, as are the Coliseum, the Charleston Convention Center, the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, and an outlet mall.
Per Capita: $20,103
Two bedroom rental: $984
MSA Residential Home Sales: $188,871
Things to do
If you’re looking for southern hospitality at its finest, Summerville might be the best area for you to unpack your bags – you certainly won’t be the first. In the last 10 years, Summerville has grown by nearly 16,000 new residents. This is due in part to its “Main Street Approach” redevelopment efforts. The only downfall is the commute to downtown Charleston might be a lengthy one due to the traffic, but hopefully construction on I-26 will help with the drive.
Each community has its own distinct personality and culture. If you’re curious about any of them, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help. Or, if you live in any of these areas and want to contribute, please type away.
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