Rivers Avenue Grocer Could Signal More Gentrification

Michael Brown

Bob King

By Barney Blakeney

It seems a grocery store may soon come to the former site of Shipwatch Square at Rivers and McMillan avenues in North Charleston.

If a food store does locate at the site, it will be the first and only one in the city’s southern district since 2005.

But as gentrification takes hold in North Charleston, the new store could be a sign of what more is coming.

The city’s southern district that extends roughly from Union Heights on Meeting Street Road northward to Cosgrove Avenue between the Cooper River and Dorchester Road is designated a food desert.

The old Winn-Dixie grocery store at Shipwatch Square was the only grocery store in the region. But despite the lack of mobility, residents soon adapted to the necessity of going miles to buy groceries.

That will change as the city undergoes continuing gentrification. The City of North Charleston is negotiating with a developer to locate a grocery store at the site it purchased in 2011.

Two years later the city bought the former Charleston Naval Hospital now under renovation.

And the redevelopment of the former George Legare Homes also promised transformation of the southern district.

Residents of surrounding communities say the renewed interest in locating a grocery store on Rivers Avenue comes as no surprise as redevelopment in neighborhoods along the Spruill Avenue, Reynolds Avenue and Montague Avenue corridors begin to take shape.

Fueled by the development of the new S.C. Port Authority terminal at the old naval base and expanding manufacturing, more people will be coming to the area, said councilman Bob King recently.

City officials put four parcels it owns on the auction block last month.

The auctioned parcels are located in districts represented by several councilmen including King, where the seeds of gentrification in the predominantly Black city are starting to grow. The largest parcel, a 17-acre tract on South Rhett Avenue and Noisette Creek where new development is transforming an entire community bounded by Rivers Avenue, Spruill Avenue, Mixon Avenue and Montague Avenue could bring 200 new homes to the area.

King said the multi-family zoning for the property means higher densities to accommodate workers coming to the area for manufacturing jobs. He doesn’t see those homes as housing for low-to-moderate income families.

Southern Council Dist. 10 Counmcilman Michael Brown said previous efforts to locate a grocer at the Shipwatch Square site were fruitless because no chain felt the venture would be profitable. He noted that the Save-A-Lot chain decided to go to a more northern location at Durant Avenue several years ago.

But the landscape in the southern district is changing, he said. It’s likely the city will be successful in landing a grocer at the site, he said.

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