The Impact of Scale on Community Planning

From Regional Vision to Downtown Design

By Tee Coker, AICP, Planner, Alta Planning + Design

The Alta Greenville office is currently working on two very different projects in the City of Moncks Corner, South Carolina; these projects will explore community issues, opportunities, and solutions through two very different planning “lenses.” One project will cast a vision for biking and walking in a large region that includes Moncks Corner, while the other is a district master plan that will focus on specific recommendations within the city’s historic downtown. There is significant value in both types of projects, and it is worthwhile to explore the strengths and benefits of both approaches.

At the regional end of the spectrum, Alta is currently leading a team on Walk Bike BCD, a regional bike and pedestrian plan for Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester Counties. The overall aim of the project is to “provide a ten-year vision for walking and biking in the BCD Region with proposed roadway improvements, trail connections, and program and policy concepts.” One of the communities in the BCD region is Moncks Corner, which is located on the edge of the rapidly-growing Charleston metro area in Berkeley County. The city is poised for significant growth in the coming decades, as several announced major manufacturing projects have spurred an explosion of new and planned residential development near Moncks Corner, which has the potential to develop as a regional retail hub with a destination downtown district.

The Walk Bike BCD Plan establishes the regional vision of a seamless and connected network across the tri-county area. This network highlights important destinations and active transportation projects of regional significance. While the recommendations connect each municipality within the region, each local community must continue to further develop local linkages to neighborhood-level destinations and identify local priorities that can be carried beyond this regional planning process. A regional plan of this size provides a common vision the region and a tool for regional-level prioritization, while offering an important springboard for local-level planning and implementation.

As part of the Walk Bike BCD planning process, the Alta team is exploring ways that Moncks Corner can be incorporated into a future regional bike/pedestrian spine that will ultimately connect to both the Palmetto Trail and the East Coast Greenway. Additionally, Walk Bike BCD will include program, policy, and funding recommendations that will impact individual communities within the region, including Moncks Corner. For example, a regional education and awareness program will support local safe routes to school initiatives and encourage local riding and walking clubs.

At the smaller end of the scale, members of Alta’s Greenville office are working as part of an interdisciplinary team of planners, urban designers, landscape architects, preservation architects, and marketing and branding specialists to develop a downtown master plan for Moncks Corner. Alta will address such fine-grained issues as how to strengthen pedestrian connections to tie together two sides of Main Street, develop a pedestrian railroad crossing, expand the footprint of downtown parks, address neighborhood sidewalk connections, and develop a downtown traffic calming strategy. Additionally, Alta will create a downtown wayfinding system that incorporates branded environmental graphics and signage for pedestrians and motorists. All of these recommendations converge on the overarching goal of holistic downtown revitalization.

The Walk Bike BCD study identifies the major connection points for bike and pedestrian transportation throughout the three-county region. With the downtown study, we will identify the smaller elements that impact movement within a community, such as connections between the city’s new farmers market to a nearby low-income neighborhood and ways to establish a consistency and character along Main Street.

In the long run, a strong regional vision will directly impact individual communities, including their historic downtowns. By undertaking these two projects concurrently, Alta will be able to shape community development in ways that positively impact Moncks Corner in ways both small and large in the coming decades.