The Bend offers new opportunities to connect North Charelston community

Updated: May. 9, 2017 at 6:02 PM EDT
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The Bend, a 17-acre property off Azalea Drive (Source: The Bend)
The Bend, a 17-acre property off Azalea Drive (Source: The Bend)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In the last two weeks a new community project launched in North Charleston on the site of a former low-income housing neighborhood.

The Bend, located at 3775 Azalea Drive, is the former property where the Ashley Shores subdivision was located.

It was a common sight to see police in the subdivision as recent as five years ago. In the summer of 2014 the complex shut down and in 2015 was demolished.

"The stormwater ponds at the front of the property were a major problem," said Site Director Chet Morse. "We've removed truckloads of debris out of those ponds."

The original intent for the purchase by The Pearlstine Company in 2014 was to build a production brewery and distillery on the site.

However, now what remains is 17-acres of endless opportunity.

"I would love to see low-income housing that's not a crime neighborhood put back up there," said Constance Mohlenhoff, of North Charleston.

"I really want to look at The Bend and see how it fits into the community at a large," said Susan Pearlstine, owner of The Bend. "I'm not saying there won't ever be apartments here, but I want to take a look at it in a way I feel is visionary and healthy for my community."

Pearlstine said former residents of Ashley Shores have come back to the property looking at the changes which have occurred in the last two years.

"They all have stories of when it was a great place, and when it wasn't a great place," she said. "Obviously nobody wanted to leave their homes, yet we're not getting any pushback. We weren't involved with that. I think people are looking forward to what we're doing here. We've certainly invited them back to be part of this."

Some initial ideas of how to get the community involved include Marsh Jam, an outdoor music opportunity showcasing local artists. This event, including others, would be free and open to the public.

Currently, the property has free Wi-Fi for those in the area, an addition Pearlstine said was needed.

"I heard in a conversation that the class divide continues to grow wider because of access to the internet," she said. "It was Wi-Fi desert out here. We'll be really developing our community tables and shade opportunities for people to come."

"A nice park with shorefront access and everything else would be nice also," Mohlenhoff added.

"If we establish the place first, and care for the place, and bring the public out to enjoy this space for lots of different reasons, that may inform a responsible development decision moving forward," Morse added.

A spokesman for the City of North Charleston said officials have had brief conversations with The Bend, but so far everything is "conceptual in nature".

"I've really spent time and money getting it to this point where I can say to people come and see this thing that I've discovered right here on the Ashley River," Pearlstine said. "It's a real special place – you can see it."

Pearlstine said the hope is to have the master plan for the area rolled out by next year.

As for the end vision for the site, Pearlstine added the property will be driven by the commercial real estate market and city zoning.

The city zoning and planning commission is currently looking at a request from The Bend to rezone the property as commercial/business.

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