A Charleston developer Monday unveiled plans for a roughly $60 million mixed-use development at the Cardinal Newman School site on Forest Drive.
Representatives from the Beach Co. presented the plans to more than 100 Forest Acres residents, listening to their concerns and answering questions at a town-hall meeting at Cardinal Newman.
While the meeting started with some rumblings from the crowd, it ended with applause and some residents saying they had been won over by the presentation.
Ned Miller, the Beach Co. development manager overseeing the project, told the crowd that “Forest Acres Village Square” would include nearly 300 apartment units and a shopping center to be filled with local, small-scale restaurants and boutique shops.
The roughly 54,000-square-foot development is designed to create a “welcoming, walkable neighborhood feel,” he said.
“We’re creating what we hope is a great village gathering spot for not just the residents here,” Miller said. “It’s not something that you’re just going to drive by, but something that, hopefully, all of you are using.”
The project’s engineers and architects also spoke, explaining the development’s design and trying to alleviate concerns about its expected impact on traffic in the highly traveled, shop-lined corridor of Forest Drive between Beltline Boulevard and Trenholm Road.
That stretch has been maligned for its traffic issues, including speeding cars, dangerous left turns and badly timed traffic lights. Many who spoke at the meeting asked whether the project would add to those issues or create new ones.
Miller and others said one of the development’s exits would be at the nearby traffic light — facilitating left turns onto Forest Drive — and the other would allow only right turns onto the busy four-lane road.
The group also responded to questions ranging from whether the development would have adequate parking — it will have more than 630 spaces, some included in a parking garage, Miller said — to whether the apartments will be handicap friendly.
Beth Baldauf, a 45-year-old Forest Acres resident, said she entered the meeting with concerns about traffic and the development’s appearance, but left feeling much better.
“I really appreciate their thoughtfulness in advance,” Baldauf said. “They obviously spent some time with (Forest Acres City) Council to overcome some objections or to take those into account.”
Mark Plessinger, 42, who lives on Gamewell Drive, near the proposed development, said he came away feeling “cautiously optimistic.”
“They were a little further along than what I anticipated,” he said. “They have looked at the traffic concerns. I think they have looked at the community as a whole.”
Miller said he had a “good number” of residents approach him after the meeting to offer support, including a few who had been critical of the plans during the discussion.
Ginger Dukes, who sits on Forest Acres City Council, said the plans were still a “work in progress.”
“They still have a long way to go before the first shovel is done,” she said.
The next step for the development is to rezone the 12-acre Cardinal Newman site to a planned district development. Miller said the Beach Co. plans to submit a rezoning request to Forest Acres by the end of the month.
The site will be redeveloped after Cardinal Newman School moves in January to a new campus in northeast Richland.