The Charleston, South Carolina, retail market continued to expand amidst what proved to be a year of unique challenges. Even with difficulties in the credit markets, downturns in national output and substantial decreases in employment, the Charleston retail market grew in size by 209,333 square feet and experienced a net absorption of 35,677 square feet. Total market occupancy remained stable, finishing the year at 86.79% occupied, which is a notable accomplishment given the weakness in the national economy.
The Charleston Peninsula has been a perennial favorite for luxury and boutique retailers seeking sites in South Carolina. This is especially true for King Street, which is located in the center of the Charleston Peninsula. The submarket has, over the past several years, evolved into northern and southern subsections with Calhoun Street serving as the boundary line between the two. The area south of Calhoun Street remains the hub of high-end retail in Charleston, with Apple and Louis Vuitton opening stores in this area during 2008. King Street north of Calhoun Street has evolved into a hub of local fashion boutiques, art and design-oriented business, as well as restaurants and night clubs.
West Ashley has traditionally been the most populated suburban market within the Charleston city limits, characterized largely by stable middle-class demographics. Recent increases in home prices in suburban Charleston have spurred a retail transformation in West Ashley. The addition of several new projects including Harris Teeter at St. Andrews Shopping Center on Highway 17 and Publix on Highway 17, as well as the recent expansion of Earth Fare at South Windermere speaks, to the upward evolution of West Ashley.
North Charleston has remained the epicenter of national power and big box tenants for the Charleston retail market, with the focus of activity centered around the intersection of Rivers Avenue and Ashley Phosphate Road. The recent addition of Centre Point, which contains a 352,000 square foot Tanger Outlet Center, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Sam’s Club and a multitude of other retail activity, has created a secondary retail submarket within the North Charleston area. In late 2008, Weber USA and The Weiser Cos. announced plans for a new $750-million retail/commercial project at Highway 78 and Interstate 26 on the Ingleside Plantation Tract. At the time the project was announced, it was the largest planned development of its type in South Carolina.
The East Cooper submarket has continued to evolve as the eight-lane Ravenel Bridge has afforded better access to the submarket. The demographics of the area are upper-middle class, and as such are attractive to a variety of retailers such as Harris Teeter, which will be adding two additional stores, one on Highway 41 and one on Highway 17, to this submarket in the coming years. Kohl’s and an additional Wal-Mart have been completed and Carolina Park, a new mixed-use development containing residential and retail space, is in the planning stages.
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