Category Archives: Neighborhood

We are excited to see the progress on a great new project in the Upper Peninsula.  Pacific Box & Crate, developed by the RavenCliff Co., will occupy an existing warehouse at the corner of King Street Ext. and Monrovia St.  There are several new buildings designed by LS3P and the Middleton Group under construction as well to create this Mixed Use Campus.  We have developed a unique, high performance landscape that ties together the buildings and provides gathering spaces to compliment them.  Thousands of native grasses and perennials went into the carefully designed rain gardens.  These systems will function to hold and clean rainwater on the site as well as providing habitat for birds and insects.  Unique elements and materials such as custom bike racks, corten steel walls and custom benches add function and fun to the space.

This sketch shows the Boomtown! plaza and rain gardens.  You can see the construction progress below.


This is a view between the buildings to what will be the courtyard for the new Workshop restaurants.


We’ve designed concrete benches in the form of ‘boxes’ for this courtyard.  Below is one of the boxes being formed.

These great bike racks were custom designed for this project.

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Lewis Barbecue is one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the summer.  Considered part of the Half-Mile North redevelopment in the upper peninsula, with architecture designed by The Middleton Group, it is a great addition to the neighborhood. The attention to detail and quality construction is evident in the work done by contractor Tom Lennon.

The site details, such as stucco knee-walls and custom bike racks are consistent with those we designed for all of Half-Mile North.  And the plantings also provide continuity with innovative mix of native grasses and perennials, shrub palms and street trees.

The show stopper is the great outdoor space under the existing Live Oak.  A custom designed metal wood locker acts as a back drop on one end, with custom corten steel planters providing pops of color and defining outdoor rooms.  The crushed gravel paving allows water to get to the tree roots and is a soft counterpoint to the hard metal elements.  Custom lighting by NiteLites gives a great ambiance in the evenings.

Additionally, the neighborhood is enhanced by the newly defined street edge with street lights, sidewalks, street trees, and walls at the corner.

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In this further discussion on the Public Realm, we will focus on great streets and how they add to the life of a city.  You will find great streets all over the world and they each share common characteristics that contribute to their success.  Every great street will function well for vehicles, transit and pedestrians and will have a comfortable sense of scale between the buildings, sidewalks and streets.  I would add, that part of a streets ability to function for pedestrians includes an environmental component, so we can add green infrastructure to the list. A system of street networks within a city that consider all of these elements as part of their design will add to, not detract from, the life of a city.

 Lets look more closely at one remarkable street in Charleston, King Street.  What characteristics make it such a thriving part of the city?  Obviously the variety of uses in the buildings make it attractive.  The restaurants, shops, businesses and residences create a vibrant place. However, without the public infrastructure, that is ‘the street’, it could simply be another strip mall.  The narrow driving lanes and edges defined by two to five story buildings create a feeling of enclosure without being clausterphobic.  The passable sidewalk sheltered from passing vehicles by on street parking, make the pedestrian feel safe.  The use of quality material such as bluestone sidewalks, granite curbs, and brick crosswalks provide a sense of human scale.  Site furnishings such as street lights, benches and bike racks create a comfortable and inviting space for pedestrians.  With the addition of street trees, the space feels complete.

King Street


While we do not want to replicate King Street in every area of the city, per se, it will be beneficial to utilize similar features and characteristics.  For example, Morrison Drive in the Upper Peninsula offers a lot of potential, especially considering all of the redevelopment of existing buildings and new building that is occurring.  Currently, this street has some positives like street trees, sidewalks and striped bike lanes, but the lack of safe pedestrian crossings, limited on street parking and significant lack of lighting and site furnishings leaves a lot of room for improvement.  By utilizing the large Right of Way, we could potentially see designated transit lanes, protected bike lanes, increased parallel parking, bioswale/raingardens and improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.  Adding a vegetated median and making safe crosswalks could greatly improve the safety and aesthetics.  Already, improvements have been made in areas like Half Mile North and 960 Morrison Drive as these areas have been redeveloped.

Existing Morrison Drive

The following diagrams illustrate the above ideas to create a ‘Complete Street’ on Morrison Drive.  Although not every street in the Upper Peninsula will include all of these elements, many of these elements such as sidewalks, crosswalk improvements, street trees and bioswales can be incorporated to greatly improve the public realm in this area.  Depending on the size of the street, scale of the buildings and predominate uses, these elements can be incorporated appropriately.

Once a functioning and pleasing street network is established, attention should be paid to the public plazas and green space in this area.  Every redeveloped corner offers an opportunity to include small elements such as interesting paving and seating elements or possibly public art.  These small moves taken together have a big impact on the feeling of the public realm.  A few well planned parks can meet the needs of the existing and future residents as the area transitions from a predominantly service/light industrial area with a few apartments and single family homes, to a hub of activity with new residential properties, office, restaurant, and service uses.




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Creative Corridor, Upper Peninsula, NoMo….whatever you choose to call it, the area is transforming at rapid speed.  Our office is excited to call this area home and to be a part of the transformation.  We have been working with wonderful clients and consultants who are committed to bringing quality projects to the area. This location map shows our projects in this area that are either constructed, under construction or on the drawings boards:

Here is a sampling of the projects under construction or on the drawings boards that we’ve been a part of to date:

The future location of Butcher and Bee promises to be a fun and innovative space with unique custom designed benches and lounge space in the courtyard of cobblestone.  Meadows of native grasses and perennials will surround the space and the renovated building designed by David Thompson.  Custom bike racks ensure locals who want to leave their cars behind can, and renovated sidewalks make it easy on pedestrians.  This is sure to be a great new hot spot just steps away from Edmund’s Oast and the offices of Half-Mile North.

Custom Benches Under Construction in the cobblestone courtyard.

Lewis BBQ is just south of Half-Mile North and should be opening soon.  Located on the site of an existing building, the new structure occupies the same footprint, but The Middleton Group has transformed it into an open and airy space. A new courtyard and custom details such as a steel cabinet to hold the wood for the smokers will create a great space for hanging out at lunch or dinner.


The proposed Apartments at Romney Street on the former site of Charleston Steel and Metal is being developed by Middle Street Partners and will add a great influx of residents to this area.  With a nod to the former use, the design is trending towards an industrial/garden aesthetic.

Last, but certainly not least, Pacific Box and Crate is planned for an existing site on Upper King Street.  The developers of Half-Mile North, Raven Cliff Co. saw the potential of this space and have a vision for a mixed use campus. It will utilize and renovate the existing Dixie Box and Crate warehouse and add two new buildings with green space and courtyards between them.  It will house office space and a new, innovative dining concept.  It is sure to be a huge draw to this area for entertainment and work and our plans include sustainable design elements such as rain gardens, permeable paving in the courtyards and an innovative design concept unique for this area.

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The value of the public realm to a great city should not be taken for granted.  When we think of great public spaces in a city, we are often drawn to the iconic large parks.  And when citizens think of their needs for green space, it is often channeled into their ideas of gardens, sports fields or playgrounds.  Without a doubt, every great city has their share of well known and loved parks.  But there are aspects of the public realm that should not be discounted even though they seem less glamorous or obvious.

So, what is the public realm?  I would define it as the realm that belongs to the public as a whole, in which we carry out our every day tasks and errands.  It includes streets, pathways, corridors, parks, publicly accessible open spaces, and built elements that are accessible to everyone regardless of ownership.  These are really places where vehicles may be able to traverse, but the pedestrian rules.

In Charleston, we can all immediately name the great parks we are familiar with.  White Point Gardens, Marion Square, Hampton Park and Waterfront Park are jewels of greenspace for the city.  But so often a lot of the social life of the city happens on its streets.  King Street is a great shopping street with its narrow right of way, many shops and well defined edges.  I meet friends, colleagues or clients along this street almost every time I walk it.  It has such great value.  Upper King street has become a thriving area as well, with restaurants that incorporate outdoor seating, and great little side streets that offer more gracious sidewalks.  This allows for gathering nodes such as fountains, benches for seating shaded by trees and civic buildings that open up onto plazas that act as impromptu spots to eat lunch or sit with a cup of coffee and take in the bustle of the city.  These less defined spaces are where everyone in the community is welcome and people have the opportunity to mingle and meet and feel a greater connection to the city as a whole. This is where children walk to and from school every day, business people take lunch, tourists sightsee and citizens conduct errands.

A sidewalk, a plaza, a bench or a small fountain may seem like ordinary things, but with the right attention to design, these spaces and elements elevate the life of a city from ho-hum to lively.  Charleston’s Mayor Riley and design professionals at the City have done a superb job of giving attention to these aspects of the city in the lower peninsula and filling in the small holes in the urban fabric to bring a richness that the community can enjoy.  In the future, we will have the opportunity to take these aspects of design into areas such as the upper peninsula, and the suburbs of West Ashley to allow for the continued development that is already happening here to bring richness to those areas as well.  In addition, there is opportunity to add a greater element of sustainability to our design standards.  Thankfully the city has already begun to think of these areas as a whole and are prepared to be proactive instead of reactive.  As a Landscape Architect, it is exciting to consider the opportunity to be a part of the future of this area as it grows.  With each new project or renovation, a small part of the public realm is mended and improved for the entire community.  High standards for design and continued thoughtful consideration given to details of this new public realm are sure to increase the vitality and enjoyment for all citizens.

In part two of this discussion on the public realm, we will get into a few of the specific details for design:  Corridors, plazas, parks, and complete streets. -H

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