Charleston has a long and rich history. It is one of the United States’ oldest cities and has excelled as a port city, a trade city, an industrial city and now a tourism city.
Charleston has continuously evolved to maintain its authenticity, and protect its place as one of The South’s premier cultural homes. The City has survived fires, wars,
hurricanes, and even a devastating earthquake, only to come back stronger. Charleston is an interesting case study because of its historic pattern of development. Being an old
city, we can analyze the city in its ‘pre-automobile’ form, as well as the patterns of new urbanism mimicking the historic pattern found throughout the peninsula and in the
core of Mt. Pleasant. The essence of this analysis yields a startling understanding of the value of place.
The two most prominent features in the 3D model are the historic core along the lower peninsula and the beachfront islands. Beachfront development creates a special
condition from a value standpoint that we call “the beach effect”. This property is intrinsically more valuable because of the oceanfront. Disregarding the beach effect, Charleston follows a fairly predictable pattern within the context of typical American urban growth. Water and the geography have a definitive impact on the pattern of outward growth, but the model shows clearly the region’s outward expansion from the dense core of downtown. Interstate 26 in particular has a major impact on the region’s development footprint, facilitating new growth at the edges of existing development. Also notable are the marked differences in tax productivity, corresponding to different design choices: dense development, historic architecture and New Urbanist communities pay, dollar for dollar, significantly higher taxes.