Upper King Street Evolves

Key Takeaways

  • Upper King Street is moving solidly into the second phase of urban retail redevelopment as curated soft goods retailers find promising sales.
  • Regional population and employment growth are supporting the expansion of new retail nodes in the Summerville/Goose Creek area.
  • Grocery retail chains continue expanding in the Charleston market. Recent announcements have included Publix Super Market, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Aldi, Save-A-Lot, Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods.

Upper King Street is Evolving

King Street, Charleston’s retail “High Street”, is segmented into three parts. The newest section to experience an urban renaissance is Upper King, the segment between Calhoun Street and the Crosstown (Highway 17). This 10-block stretch was largely developed after the construction of the area’s rail terminus near John Street in the 1830’s. This corridor quickly displaced the waterfront as the primary industrial and warehousing area in the region over the next 30 years. However, Upper King Street, like Charleston as a whole, began an economic decline at the end of the Civil War that lasted well into the twentieth century. It was not until 1991, with the redevelopment of the passenger rail terminal into the Charleston Visitor Center, that Upper King’s rebirth began. Today, the area is seeing the second phase of urban retail redevelopment solidify.

The first phase of Upper King’s retail revitalization began around 2005, when Chai’s and REVAL opened on Upper King. These restaurants were followed by dozens of others – mostly opened since 2010, including Halls Chop House, The Ordinary, The Darling Oyster Bar and more. Fueling this wave were four factors: relatively inexpensive rent, the redevelopment of the surrounding residential areas, the growth of the College of Charleston and plans for many significant redevelopments between King and Meeting Street.  

Upper King is now evolving into its second phase as several major redevelopments (Elan, Midtown, PeopleMatter headquarters, 400 Meeting Street Apartments, the Dewberry) are complete and another 350 hotel rooms and 328 market rate apartments under construction. Curated soft goods retailers like West Elm, Beckett, The Editor and Lulu Burgess have opened and are thriving. As their same-store sales and the residential and tourist population expand, other regional and national retailers are beginning to consider the area for expansion as the sales become more proven.

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