The past, present, and future of Daniel Island’s apartment community
Driving onto Daniel Island, it’s impossible not to notice that life in this little island town is changing, and fast. As residents exit off the I-526 Mark Clark Expressway, they can see the transformation that’s taking place as rising concrete structures surrounded by moving construction equipment dot the community’s landscape. And while the seemingly rapid acceleration of Daniel Island’s growth may be sounding alarm bells for some, as evidenced by a pocket of residential opposition to a proposed new Farr Street apartment complex, a close examination of the Daniel Island Master Plan text reveals that many of the projects underway today have, for the most part, been planned from the beginning.
Growth is happening everywhere on the island and projects currently under construction and planned are for a multitude of uses that span breadth of industry. Multi-unit residential developments, such as three complexes currently underway in the island’s Town Center area, are some of the most high-profile projects on the island.
What is behind the flurry of construction activity? According to Daniel Island resident Clyde Rush, chair of the land use and zoning committee of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association (DINA), the glut of growth residents are witnessing is the result of a backlog of projects that built up during the 2008 financial downturn that stalled development nationwide.
“What people are seeing now is they’re seeing all of this development happening at the same time, and after having a six- or seven-year period during which nothing was going on,” said Rush. “Are we building too much? According to the master plan, we are not, but would I like to see things different in certain spots? Absolutely.”
The Daniel Island Master Plan text specifies that Daniel Island, at full build-out, would be home to 7,500 residences that would be mixed by design. The language isn’t specific in the dissemination of that total, but does recommend that approximately 1,000 of the total would be condos and 2,500 would be apartments. Counting the proposed apartment complexes, Daniel Island would be home to just over 2,000 units by the end of 2018.
“The Town Center was always built to be a town center,” Rush continued. “Why didn’t it get built? Because nobody wanted to develop it. Why does Greystar suddenly have four properties on this island when they only had one for seven or eight years? It’s because the economy has changed, things are moving. They’ve always considered this an opportunity.”
The Daniel Island Company’s Director of Communications, Julie Dombrowski, agreed with the sentiment that the 2008 financial and housing downturn did play a role in delaying what normally would have been steady growth.
“There was a lot of construction in downtown Daniel Island before the downturn, but that momentum was suppressed during the recession,” she said. “The current pace of development may appear to be exceedingly fast, but much of the activity is part of a natural ‘catch-up’ from the stalled momentum almost a decade ago. A core of multifamily and multi-use properties in Daniel Island’s downtown was indeed part of the original master plan. It is just now coming to fruition.”
Market forces aside, the explosive growth of residential development on Daniel Island has left some residents asking themselves whether Daniel Island is in fact becoming too inundated with apartments. Before one can truly answer that question, however, it’s important to first consider what’s here and what’s coming with respect to multi-unit residential facilities.
Today, there are more than 1,200 units available in six different Daniel Island rental facilities, and several more on the way. Daniel Island didn’t see its first multi-unit residential complex until 2003, when the Daniel’s Landing Apartments at the end of River Landing Drive were first completed. They were later converted into condos. The 71-unit Seven Farms Apartments opened in 2006 at the intersection of Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms Drive to offer affordable housing opportunities to qualified renters.
In 2008, Charleston development giant Greystar cut the ribbon on Daniel Island’s second apartment complex, the 283-unit Daniel Island Village. Located at 455 Seven Farms Drive, the mid-rise apartment complex offers one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, which it rents to tenants for between approximately $1,200 and $3,300. Like the other Greystar properties on Daniel Island, the complex typically operates at occupancy rates between 85 and 95 percent.
Despite being in the throes of the financial downturn, the Humanities Foundation expanded their Seven Farms Apartments affordable housing complex with a second, neighboring facility. The 42-unit Seven Farms Village affordable housing apartment complex opened its doors in 2010, becoming Daniel Island’s third multi-unit residential facility.
Greystar’s Daniel Island Village got a neighbor and competitor two years after that, when in 2012 RAIT Residential constructed the 274-unit Talison Row apartment complex at 280 Seven Farms Drive. Talison Row has one, two, and three-bedroom apartments available at a range of prices from approximately $1,100 to $2,200 per month, and has occupancy rates typically exceeding 95 percent.
And while as of 2015, renters did have five legitimate options on Daniel Island, it was only last year that Daniel Island’s apartment complex offerings began to truly trend upward. That year, Greystar opened its doors on its first complex in Daniel Island’s town center, Simmons Park. Located at 211 River Landing Drive, the 269-unit facility offers one, two, and three bedroom apartments that are located just feet from the island’s commercial hub. Rents at Simmons Park run between approximately $1,200 to $3,000 and occupancy rates at the complex typically exceed 85 percent.
A few months ago, Greystar developed its third multi-unit complex on the island, the community’s first luxury-styled apartment building, when it opened the doors of Wharf 7 Apartments near the front entrance to Daniel Island Park. Though open for business, the 312-unit facility and the first such complex to open north of the Mark Clark Expressway, will be completed early next year. The facility will offer one, two, and three-bedroom domiciles to renters at prices from approximately $1,200 to $3,000.
Five multi-unit apartment complexes containing a grand total of 769 units are slated for construction on Daniel Island in 2017 and 2018. Charlotte-based developer Faison Enterprises, LLC is well on the way to constructing Central Island Square, the first of three complexes slated for the Daniel Island town center in the coming years.
The mixed-use residential and commercial complex, with a proposed 315 units, will become Daniel Island’s largest residential complex when the developer cuts the ribbon in 2017. Central Island Square will feature small retail and service businesses on the first floor and apartments on the two upper floors.
Also scheduled for completion in 2017 is the Palmetto Creek Independent Living development, a 130-unit multi-unit rental facility for seniors ages 55 and up set to be built adjacent to Wharf 7 on Robert Daniel Drive. Though the facility is designated as seniors-only, ownership group Resort Lifestyle Communities will operate the Palmetto Creek facility as any other rental community.
A pair of other small-scale multi-unit apartment projects will also be coming to the town center area in 2017 or 2018, the River Landing Apartments and the Four Corners Apartments. Both projects are being undertaken by developer Daniel Island Apartments, LLC. The River Landing Apartment complex is slated for 210 River Landing Drive, next to the massive commercial space at 225 River Landing Drive and across from the Simmons Park apartment facility. The project is currently still in the design phase, but promises to offer an additional 56 units upon completion. The project to develop the space at 255 River Landing Drive into the proposed 68-unit Four Corners Apartments facility is also likely to be completed by the end of 2018. Still in the development phase, the specifics about the proposed projects are, as yet, unknown.
Rounding out the projects is the somewhat controversial 200-unit “Overture” senior living facility proposed by developer Greystar for the undeveloped tract between the north and south ends of Farr Street. The proposal involves extending Farr Street from Grand Council Street to Seven Farms Drive and constructing the apartment building along the new roadway, adjacent to the existing Daniel Island Village complex. Details on the Farr Street project have not been plentiful, but more information is likely to emerge during a December 21 community meeting Greystar is conducting to discuss the project with concerned residents.
While increased development can bring challenges, there are benefits worth noting, according to Dombrowski and former Daniel Island Business Association President Dave Williams.
“Another thing that stalled during the economic downtown was the development of the retail sector on the island,” said Dombrowski. “But now, with a significant increase in the number of residences being added within walking distance from island businesses, we expect that existing retailers will see a needed boost, and new retailers will be attracted to open in our community.”
“From a business perspective, our businesses need traffic,” added Williams, whose company, 843 Benefits, is located on River Landing Drive. “They need people walking by, driving by, and stopping at other stores to get foot traffic. Most of the new multifamily developments are within walking distance of downtown so I think that is a good thing. In fact, the added traffic, with the added growth should help our businesses become much more established and attract more popular (commercial) tenants that many people here have been waiting for.”
Long time Daniel Island resident Barbara Jenner is pleased overall with the island’s development, but does wonder if apartment projects have become too numerous.
“There is a consensus with a lot people that we know, people who have been here for a real long time, that Daniel Island is building up with a lot more multi-family (developments) than was originally thought,” said Jenner. “Even from people who have been here for a long time, from inception, are somewhat concerned that there seems to be a lot more multifamily things going up. I don’t think they thought they were going to be there.”
For his part, Rush explains Jenner’s sentiment as one part nostalgia and one part wishful thinking.
“It’s a conversation that people have in which they say ‘I’d like it to be the way it was. I want it to be a quiet little neighborhood where I can drive my golf cart down the street and I don’t face traffic.’ ‘Mayberry,’ if you will. But as soon as you have that, that’s what a lot of other people want and so, one by one, that goes away. This is not Mayberry. It was never designed to be Mayberry, but it has been that for a few years.”
For a list of projects currently in the pipeline for Daniel Island, visit the list continually updated by Rush on the DINA website at http://www.dineighborhoodassociation.org/?page_id=405.