Creative Destruction

Park Circle, a neighborhood in North Charleston, SC, was originally laid out according to British garden city principles in the early 1900s. Since then, the adjacent naval shipyard has closed, and the grand vision has not quite come to fruition. But Park Circle is only ten miles from downtown Charleston, and it caught local developer Vince Graham’s eye. He had completed the successful planned community of I’On in nearby Mt.Pleasant, and this seemed like another opportunity to apply the principles of density, walkability and  mixed-use. The development, which he called Mixson, after one of the original city’s founders, began with a neighborhood of three-story houses tightly grouped around courtyards. The result, conceived by local designers George Holt and Andrew Gould, was like a chunk carved out of the 13th Arondissement and teleported to North Charleston. Real estate is a highly risky business, however—developers are at the mercy of politicians, bankers, and local homeowners. Here, the portents were all favorable, until the national economy intervened, and the housing slump put a stop to Mixson. The little piece of Paris remains unfinished, a cluster of houses surrounded by open space. No doubt, it will one day be complete, but in the meantime, like the original garden city of which it is a part, it remains an old American urban story—the dream that wasn’t.

Mixson, SC

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