Well I am happy to say that the brisket lived up to the hype. It was damn tasty!
But this post is not about the brisket. This post is about the funky neighborhood of which Lewis Barbecue resides: Half Mile North.
The Half Mile North neighborhood is about 3 years old and is home to several tech office companies as well as a collection of awesome restaurants. Dubbed Half Mile North because it is a half mile north of the Ravenel Bridge. The neighborhood is bounded by Brigade Street, Morrison Drive and Meeting Street. It is quickly becoming a foodie paradise with the recent additions of Home Team BBQ, Lewis Barbecue and Butcher and Bee. It was already home to the amazing Edmund's Oast.
I need to point out that this hub is located in a part of Charleston that most would avoid just a couple of years ago. Correction, if you went to this area you would be going to eat at Santis or the Tattooed Moose. Or you would be going to get a tattoo or to a strip club.. (so i've heard)
So what is the secret? What has made Charleston's Half Mile North so successful?
Well....there are a lot of interesting things happening in this area in addition to the growing food and tech hub. For example: did you know that this area is also becoming a hub for modern architecture in Charleston? Or did you notice how each building has it's own slice of outdoor space?
In this post I start to uncover some of the secrets and will share share some of my photos and observations on why Half Mile North is one of the most unique developments in Charleston.
Modern Architecture in Charleston.....say what now?
Yes. It is true. The architecture of Half Mile North tends to have a more modern sensibility. This in itself is unique since Charleston's architecture and urban realm is characterized by historic architecture.
This is a part of Charleston that is a few miles north of the historic center. This distance coupled with the transitional character of the neighborhood has given the designers and developers a little more freedom in their design flavor.
A lot of the architecture is accredited to the talented architects at The Middleton Group.
Bring on the Funk!
In addition to the modern flare, I also see a bit of funk in these buildings. Bold colors, interesting roof forms and unique entrance statements characterize the funkitecture.
Industrial Material Palette
The area was a former light industrial district characterized by low warehouse style buildings. The architects have used that history for inspiration and have created an interesting industrial material palette. Cor-Ten steel and corrugated metal are some of the most common materials used. I am also a fan of the shipping container that the folks at Home Team BBQ have utilized for the stage and backdrop to their outdoor dining area.
Embrace the Outdoors
Perhaps the biggest draw to the eateries of this district would be the wealth of outdoor dining. Although the last few months have been sweltering, we here in the lowcountry like to eat and party outside. I would guess that these outdoor dining areas will get used 9 months out of the year. This is also popular for folks with young kids and canines.
I should also point out that the offices in this district also have outdoor areas and there is even a dog park.
Thoughtful Landscape Design
It is not all about buildings folks! One of the major components of the design success of Half Mile North is the landscape design. Kudos to J.R. Kramer and his team at Remark Studio Landscape Architecture.
A consistent selection of native plantings has been used throughout the development that creates a unique yet unified brand.
My favorite plant is the equisetum which you see all over Half Mile North. Also called Horsetail, this reed like plant looks like mini bamboo and has a cool modern look. Danielle and I got some inspiration and are thinking about planting some equisetum around our house.
Of course I took a picture of the dumpster enclosure. Because it is a damn fine dumpster enclosure! Those doors are made of Cor-Ten Steel which rusts as it ages.
Electric car charging stations! Are we in the 21st century or something! Bravo!
This is a subtle detail, but check out how they painted the wheel stops. Usually those would just be ye ol' concrete, but not at Half Mile North. They are wooden and painted two colors.
My beef with Half Mile North: A bit too Suburban
I have spent this entire article praising the design at Half Mile North, but I also feel that there are opportunities for improvement. Most of my criticism would be about the suburban development pattern. What do I mean by that?
Most of the buildings are surrounded by large surface parking lots. This is common in the suburbs but in cities we typically have our buildings front the streets and we hide the parking. This helps create a strong street edge and pedestrian experience. Unfortunately the pedestrian experience at Half Mile North is dominated by the automobile as you walk through parking lots to get to your destination.
All of the buildings are a single use and many are only 1 story tall. I believe that there is an opportunity for greater density and mixed-use buildings. It is clearly a place where people can work and eat, but wouldn't it be awesome if folks could live above these buildings also?
To the developers credit, some of the buildings were rehabs of existing structures. And part of the success of the restaurants can be attributed to the large amount of free parking. It is very easy for people to get to this location and to not worry about finding parking is an added benefit.
But it makes me wonder. As we continue to grow and property values sky rocket will these structures be temporary. In 10 years will the highest and best use for this area be surface parking lots and 1 story structures. We will see.
In many ways the Half Mile North development is a pioneer. The developers have taken a risk by choosing a location far away from the city center and by choosing designs that are unconventional to Charleston. The risk has clearly paid off. I am excited to see the continued growth and prosperity of this area.
It is more typical for development to gradually grow outward from an existing center or for new centers to grow around a transit hub. A good example is how development has slowly moved north on King Street.
In the case of Half Mile North a big leap was taken. We use the term pivot to describe this type development pattern. By pivoting so far from the urban core, Half Mile North is now a new center which will make it possible for new developments to occur even farther north.
Congrats again to everyone involved.
Well....now I'm hungry.