Best Photographer in Isle of Palms, SC

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The impulse to save our most cherished moments is a powerful force. When you ask people to choose three possessions to save from a burning house, one of the most common answers is a photo album.

Maybe that’s because photographs tell the stories of our lives – a timeline of memories filled with faces we love and places we have been. Photos speak directly to our emotions; they capture our attention and give us the power to show people who we are and what we do.

When composed professionally, they shine a light on our personalities, relationships, and families. After all, every human emotion has a place in photography.

Whether you need to steal someone’s attention with a stunning headshot or want to save your most loving family moments, I can help.

My name is Adam Chandler, and as a professional photographer in Isle of Palms, SC I delight in the adventure of photography. I constantly immerse myself in whatever genre I’m shooting and seek new ways of bonding with my subjects to provide them with a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Unlike other photographers, I use my technical knowledge of photography, ability to connect with people, and artistic creativity to produce memorable photos for my clients. I believe that providing folks with a client-centric experience sets me apart from other photographers in Isle of Palms.

Some professionals may be wonderful composers but cannot understand what their customers want. Others are great at connecting but don’t have the training or experience to make their work truly special.

When you choose Adam Chandler Photography, rest assured that you are hiring a photographer with creativity, imagination, and a keen eye for detail. You won’t ever have to worry about sacrificing one quality for another.

I have a wide range of professional experience in the world of photography. I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of subjects, from local families to corporate business professionals in the Lowcountry. As a photographer in Isle of Palms with more than a decade of experience, my top priority is not only to capture beautiful images but also to provide you with a relaxing, enjoyable photography session.

Service Areas

kristenking Family Photo


Now that you know a little about my background, let’s take a look at some of
my most popular photography services in Isle of Palms:

Our Company Mission Is To Exceed Expectations

Our Company Mission Is To Exceed Expectations

Your family is probably the single most important part of your life. From children to grandparents, and even nieces and nephews, building a strong family bond secures your legacy for the future.

You will grow and change with your family throughout life and encounter many memorable milestones along the way.  One of the best ways to document these milestones and relive your memories is with a family photo session.

I love family photography and strive to pour my soul and creativity into each shoot. While each session is different, I approach each one with the same goal: to capture the unique personality, affection, and energy of each family so I can provide authentic, engaging pictures and a uniquely fun experience.

Whether you have a newborn baby that you want to celebrate or have grandparents in town for a visit, Isle of Palms is an amazing city for family photography. There are so many locations in the Lowcountry that make for great family photography backdrops:

  • Beaches – Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, Edisto Beach
  • Popular Places – Washington Square, Broad Street, Ravenel Bridge
  • Historical Sites – Isle of Palms Battery, Fort Sumter, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Rainbow Row

Whatever location you choose for family photography in Isle of Palms, the Holy City is a wonderful place in which to immerse yourself with friends and family.

As a family photographer in Isle of Palms, one of the reasons why I love working with families so much is the opportunity to get creative. I gladly accommodate the style preferences my clients are looking for – be it more traditional, posed images, or candid, playful pictures.

I use a relaxed style of direction to get your family engaged in our photography session, to help get authentic expressions that are full of life and happiness.

Here are just a few reasons why families choose Adam Chandler Photography for their family portraits:

Document Family Growth

With each year that passes, we grow – both literally in size and also in mind. Having annual family photographs helps document the advancements and growth you have in life. Family photography in Isle of Palms is a great way to remember the quirks or personality traits in your children, or to immortalize an important event like a high school graduation. Since we grow and change so fast, many families arrange for yearly family photo sessions to see their family’s growth year over year.

Remember Milestones

With each year that passes, new milestones are achieved. From a child’s first steps to a sibling getting married, there is no better way to remember such happy events than with photographs. Whether you are welcoming a new puppy into your life or just landed the job of your dreams, celebratory pictures of your family will give you heartwarming memories for the rest of your life.

Create Memories

The smiling, radiant face of your daughter after losing her first tooth. The loving glance between newlyweds. The happy father, beaming with pride after his son scored his first touchdown. As a professional photographer in Isle of Palms, SC, drawing out these feelings and emotions and capturing them on film is one of my greatest joys. Not because the pictures are great, but because you, as my client, will have so many years of enjoyment looking back at them.

Portraits And Headshots In Isle of Palms, SC

A great headshot shows you at your best – whether you want to impress a prospective employer or need professional photography for your website. In today’s world of digital dominance, having a professional headshot or portrait of your team is becoming a necessity. It’s no surprise, then, that headshots and portraits are among the most popular genres of photography.

Headshots can be tricky, mostly because many humans just aren’t very photogenic. I know that for some clients, it can be hard posing for a professional photo; knowing their headshot or portrait might make the rounds with future employers.

Fortunately, I have years of experience taking professional headshots. Unlike some amateur photographers, I know how to draw out your personality to capture you at your best. I know how to compose your portrait based on the industry you work in or the goal that you have with your photoshoot. Clients choose Adam Chandler Photography because I advise them every step of the way – from the clothes they should wear to the expression they should have.

A professional headshot or portrait is an investment into your personal brand, and here is why:

Portraits And Headshots In Isle of Palms, SC
Show Your Personality

Show Your Personality

A great headshot can help give people an idea of your personality before you sit down to meet them. For instance, a serious glance at the camera might convey determination. A big smile may say “I’m approachable.” My goal is to match your expression with your personality with every headshot or portrait I take.

Show Your Professionalism

Show Your Professionalism

Clients, collaborators, investors, and employers are much more likely to interview you or call your business if you look professional. You have taken the time to invest in your brand, and the important people you’re sharing your headshot with will appreciate your effort.

Stand Out on Social Media

Stand Out on Social Media

Many of my clients make appointments for headshots and portraits when they want to stand out from the crowd on social media. Whether you own a business and need to create new social media pages or you are looking to network with recruiters on LinkedIn, a headshot lends an air of professionalism that you won’t get with a selfie.

Show Off Your Current Look

Show Off Your Current Look

Having outdated headshots can send a message of inauthenticity. When you have up to date headshots, you’re showing clients and employers that you are confident, committed, and authentic.

Show Your Personality

Qualities Of A Great Photographer In Isle of Palms, SC

Being a great photographer means more than owning the best pieces of camera equipment. While a great camera gives clients the clearest, highest quality photos available, it won’t help me connect with my subjects. I strive to give clients a fun, enjoyable photo session. I use my knowledge and experience to help set up the perfect shot. After connecting with my client, I draw out their personality to produce a stunning final product.

Clients choose Adam Chandler Photography because I am different from my peers in the best ways possible. Here are just a few qualities that my clients appreciate:



I consider photography to be an artform – one that requires a creative mind and heaps of imagination. A great photographer needs to be able to take something ordinary and transform it into something beautiful. A back-alley puddle is about as mundane as it gets, but with the right technique and a little imagination, it can turn into something with much more substance.



This quality might seem like a no-brainer to most, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen photography that is missing something. More often than not, the photographer isn’t passionate about the subject or model that he or she is photographing.



Patience is an essential quality for all great photographers. Some days, picture lighting won’t cooperate. Other days, it’s hard to get that big happy smile from younger clients. That’s why patience and flexibility are so important. As a professional with years of experience, I understand that I must have the patience to deal with whatever comes my way and the flexibility to make the most out of any situation.

People Skills

People Skills

All photographers are created differently. Some photographers are more aloof and put in the bare minimum effort when it comes to speaking with clients. Others, like myself, relish the opportunity to talk with customers. That’s because interacting with subjects allows me the chance to see their vision and transform their idea into art. Talking with subjects lets me draw out their emotions and put younger subjects at ease. People skills are a must in this industry. Luckily for me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the job

Eye for Detail

As a professional photographer in Isle of Palms, SC I am meticulous when it comes to details. Every element of a photograph should be reviewed to ensure cohesiveness. You might think that a family photo session is cut and dry in terms of composition and detail, but all elements of a photograph must come together to convey the vision that my clients desire.
When you hire me as your photographer, I take all the following elements into consideration:

  • Composition
  • Lighting
  • Emotion
  • Storytelling

If you have a goal you want to construe with your photographs, helping you achieve that goal is often found in the details.

Eye for Detail

I am proud to say that I am very passionate about my work. However, I’m also passionate about giving my clients the most enjoyable, care-free photography experience possible. My passion drives me to work harder, push farther, and strive to be better every day that I wake up.

Adam Chandler

Ready to Get Started?

One of my favorite things to do is to talk to clients about their vision. If you are in need of professional photography, let’s talk today about what you have in mind. Whether you’re looking for family photography in Isle of Palms or want new headshots for your employees, I am here to help every step of the way.  

Latest News in Isle of Palms

24 Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina — From Ghost Tours to Sunset Cruises

Consistently ranked among the best cities in the United States by Travel + Leisure readers, Charleston is a vacation treasure trove, with an incredible food scene made up of old-school favorites and inventive newcomers, a prime location surrounded by water and near beautiful beaches, and plenty to see and do. With something for e...

Consistently ranked among the best cities in the United States by Travel + Leisure readers, Charleston is a vacation treasure trove, with an incredible food scene made up of old-school favorites and inventive newcomers, a prime location surrounded by water and near beautiful beaches, and plenty to see and do. With something for every type of traveler, here are 24 of the best things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.

Start your day with biscuits.

Start your day with a warm, indulgent biscuit. Choose from nationally acclaimed Callie's Hot Little Biscuit (which has two outposts downtown) or head across the river to Mount Pleasant for Vicious Biscuit. At the latter, order The Vicious, a cheddar and jalapeño biscuit stuffed with fried chicken, their signature maple sausage gravy, house cowboy candy, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Learn about U.S. history on the USS Yorktown.

While the historic city is perhaps better known for its significance during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, you can learn about World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, where you'll find the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, a destroyer, and a submarine, along with other educational exhibits.

Walk down King Street.

A visit to Charleston is incomplete without a stroll down the main drag, King Street. On Lower King, find antique shops packed with all sorts of vintage wares; Middle King features a mix of locally owned shops and high-end boutiques; and Upper King is home to some of the city's best nightlife and dining.

Stroll along Waterfront Park and the Battery

Start in Joe Riley Waterfront Park, where you'll see the iconic Pineapple Fountain, and walk down along the water before strolling over to Rainbow Row, made up of several candy-colored Georgian-style row homes. Continue down East Bay until it becomes East Battery, another scenic street with views of the harbor and historic houses.

See local marine life at the South Carolina Aquarium.

This waterfront aquarium is home to more than 5,000 animals and the Sea Turtle Care Center, which aids sick or injured turtles. The AZA-accredited aquarium highlights the marine life found throughout South Carolina, from the mountains to the coast.

Take a sunset cruise.

Getting out on the water — river, harbor, creek, or ocean — is a must when you visit Charleston. One way to take advantage of the waterfront location is a sunset cruise through the harbor aboard a catamaran or tall ship.

Hit the links at acclaimed golf courses.

Thanks to the South Carolina Lowcountry's comfortable weather and fantastic courses (many offer beautiful views of the marsh and water), you can golf year-round in and near Charleston. One of the area's most famous courses is the stunning Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Lounge on the beach.

Downtown Charleston is just a short drive from the area's three popular beaches: Folly Beach, Isle of Palms Beach, and Sullivan's Island Beach. Each has soft, white sand and a distinct feel: Folly has lively bars and restaurants just steps from the shores, Sullivan's Island is more quiet and residential, and Isle of Palms is somewhere in between, with easy public access via Isle of Palms County Park.

Admire art from near and far.

Head to the Gibbes Museum of Art to see works ranging from 18th-century paintings and decorative arts to contemporary pieces from local artists. After that, you can visit some of the many galleries throughout the city — perhaps you'll even find a piece to take home as a souvenir.

Shop local at the farmers market on Saturdays.

Saturday mornings are best spent in the heart of downtown Charleston at the farmers market on Marion Square. Find local produce, artisan crafts, and snacks to enjoy while you browse.

Eat your way around the city's best restaurants.

Charleston has long been known as a foodie destination, with a mix of newcomers and established favorites. Go to Wild Common for the incredible tasting menu, Fig for elevated Southern dishes, Hank's Seafood Restaurant for tasty seafood, and Halls Chophouse for steaks followed by bread pudding.

And order these classic Charleston dishes.

On your culinary tour of the city, there are a few local dishes that visitors must try (and they're featured on menus of many restaurants). Try fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and hush puppies (delightful balls of deep-fried dough, often served as a starter or a side), all washed down with a glass of sweet tea.

Take a ghost tour.

Get acquainted with the spooky side of the city and learn about some of its eternal residents on a ghost tour. Bulldog Tours has options ranging from a visit to the haunted (and historic) old jail to a paranormal investigation of the USS Yorktown.

Cheer on the Charleston RiverDogs.

Charleston is home to a minor league baseball team — the RiverDogs — so those looking for a sporty outing can snag tickets to cheer them on. (Fun fact: Actor Bill Murray is a part owner of the team.)

Sip some local brews.

Local breweries abound in Charleston, so try one (or a few) of the brews from the likes of Edmund's Oast Brewing Co., Holy City Brewing, and Westbrook Brewing, or head to the Firefly Distillery, known for their fan-favorite sweet tea vodka and fruit-flavored moonshine.

Paddle around on a kayak tour.

Take a kayak tour through the marshes and creeks around Charleston to get close to the area's incredible marine and wildlife. Charleston Outdoor Adventures is one of several tour operators in the area — just don't forget your sunscreen.

Learn About Gullah history and culture.

The Gullah are African American people from the Lowcountry regions of South Carolina and neighboring states, and their history and culture (and language, also called Gullah) are an important part of the Charleston story. Join Gullah Tours to learn more about Black history in the city, stopping at significant places like Denmark Vesey's home, quarters where enslaved people once lived, and more.

Walk the Ravenel Bridge.

Charleston's famous bridge connecting Mount Pleasant and downtown Charleston, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, has a path for pedestrians. You can walk across its entirety — or just a section — for sweeping views of the harbor (if you're not afraid of heights).

Stroll the Shem Creek Boardwalk.

Shem Creek, located in Mount Pleasant, is home to several waterfront seafood restaurants, and you can walk along its boardwalk to take in views of the water, marsh, and boats (and breathe in that fresh, salty air).

Explore Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.

The two forts that make up the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park tell the story of Charleston's role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan's Island, was in use from 1776 to 1947, while Fort Sumter, found on an island in Charleston Harbor that's only accessible by boat, was the site of the start of the Civil War.

Visit the Old Slave Mart Museum.

In a city known for its former plantations and antebellum homes, it's important to recognize the true human history. The Old Slave Mart Museum is located inside a building that was used as an auction gallery where enslaved people were sold. Here, you can learn about the history of slavery in Charleston.

Pick up a sweetgrass basket.

There are few souvenirs as iconic as a Charleston sweetgrass basket. Created by Gullah artisans with designs ranging from functional to intricate, you can find these baskets, woven from local marsh grass, throughout the city (with many sellers in the Charleston City Market).

Hop around the rooftop bars.

Get a new perspective on the Holy City — and see the many church steeples that give it that nickname — with a visit to one (or a few) of the rooftop bars around Charleston. Options include Fiat Lux at the Hotel Bennett, Citrus Club at The Dewberry, Pavilion Bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel, The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue, and Élevé at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston.

Visit Charles Towne Landing.

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, located in West Ashley, is home to the site of the first European settlement founded in South Carolina (in 1670). Here, you can explore the gardens, visit the original settlement area, and even see animals that lived in the area when it was settled.

Isle Of Palms To Consolidate Two Wastewater Treatment Plants

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye NewsConstruction is expected to begin in early 2022 on a project that will consolidate the Isle of Palms Water and Sewer Commission’s two wastewater treatment plants into one, expanding the Forest Trails facility at 41st Avenue and Waterway Boulevard and retiring the aging Wild Dunes plant. The project, expected to take 20 to 22 months to complete, will cost $26,178,000. It will be paid for with $16 million in revenue bonds, a $2.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and...

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

Construction is expected to begin in early 2022 on a project that will consolidate the Isle of Palms Water and Sewer Commission’s two wastewater treatment plants into one, expanding the Forest Trails facility at 41st Avenue and Waterway Boulevard and retiring the aging Wild Dunes plant. The project, expected to take 20 to 22 months to complete, will cost $26,178,000. It will be paid for with $16 million in revenue bonds, a $2.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a rate increase that went into effect “years ago,” according to Water and Sewer Commission General Manager Chris Jordan. The contractor is RubyCollins of Smyrna, Georgia. “The Wild Dunes plant has reached the end of its useful life. We spend a lot of money on maintenance and repairs there,” Jordan explained. The Wild Dunes plant was used when it was purchased from the city of Tega Cay, South Carolina, in 1983, when the water and sewer systems were still owned by the resort’s developer, according to Commission Special Projects Administrator Bill Jenkins. “They cut it up, put it on a truck and welded it back together,” Jenkins said. The Commission, formed in 1991, purchased the Wild Dunes water and sewer systems two years later.

The original Forest Trails facility, also purchased used, was replaced in 2015. The design engineer for the project, Mark Yodice of Thomas & Hutton, pointed out that the new plant, to be built under more stringent code regulations than its predecessor, will be better protected from high winds, hurricanes and flooding, and its operating and repair costs will be less than those for the current plant. He pointed out that nearby residents should notice the difference as well. “No noise, no odor, no lights. We’ll be a good neighbor,” Yodice said. He added that “exceptional treatment capability” means the end product that empties into the Intracoastal Waterway will be better for the environment. Currently, treated water at the Wild Dunes plant goes into a lagoon used to irrigate both Wild Dunes golf courses.

After the work is completed at Forest Trails, treated water will be pumped to Wild Dunes to help keep the greens and fairways in good shape. The consolidated plant will save the Commission money in ways besides operating and energy costs. Jordan pointed out that sludge is now trucked off the island for final treatment at other Lowcountry facilities in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Berkeley County and elsewhere. When the work is finished at Forest Trails, the Commission will be able to treat the sludge and send it directly to a landfill, saving $40,000 to $50,000 a year in trucking costs alone, Jordan said. In addition, the consolidated plant, which relies on membrane bioreactor technology, will produce less sludge, which means disposal costs will be lower than they are now.

The expanded facility will have the same capacity as the current plant: 300,000 gallons a day into the Intracoastal Waterway and another $1.1 million gallons pumped to the Wild Dunes golf course irrigation pond. Jordan said the new plant’s capacity could be expanded if the Commission needed to serve more than its current total of 2,731 sewer customers. He noted that almost 1,300 homes on the island are not tied into the system, but that “this project has nothing to do with septic tanks.”

The Forest Trails project doesn’t include work on any of the island’s 24 pump stations, 15 of them in Wild Dunes.

Jordan said the pump stations have been rehabbed over the years and that all of them are in good shape.

Isle of Palms now has more free beach parking instead of less

ISLE OF PALMS — On a barrier island that months ago planned to eliminate 200 beach parking spots, the state Department of Transportation has asserted its authority and instead increased the amount of free parking.Described as a win-win solution by Isle of Palms’ mayor because other city parking restrictions will remain, the hard-fought compromise ends months of dispute over where cars can go at one of the Charleston area’s most popular beaches.“The issue of parking and beach access is greater than the Is...

ISLE OF PALMS — On a barrier island that months ago planned to eliminate 200 beach parking spots, the state Department of Transportation has asserted its authority and instead increased the amount of free parking.

Described as a win-win solution by Isle of Palms’ mayor because other city parking restrictions will remain, the hard-fought compromise ends months of dispute over where cars can go at one of the Charleston area’s most popular beaches.

“The issue of parking and beach access is greater than the Isle of Palms and affects the state as a whole,” DOT Secretary Christy Hall said in joining the mayor and city officials to discuss the work April 19.

They talked as highway department crews laid out more than 200 angled parking spots along one side of Palm Boulevard, a state-owned road closest to the beach.

Hall also announced that the speed limit on Palm Boulevard will be reduced to 30 mph, down from 35.

Opinions on the island were mixed.

“Stupidity!” yelled a man on a bike, riding past as Hall, Mayor Jimmy Carroll and others explained the plan to reporters on Palm Boulevard near 27th Avenue.

Resident Tamara Burrell, who was walking a dog on 27th Avenue, said the plan is a good compromise because parking on residential side streets like 27th will remain limited to residents.

“We’ve gone from no parking, to some parking, to more parking,” she said, giving a shorthand summary of the back-and-forth over what to do with the summer influx of cars that began to increase in rhetoric in 2020.

In 2020, the island restricted nonresident parking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, later in the year, officials announced plans to permanently reduce parking near the beach and charge for what remained.

It all came to a head in September when the Isle of Palms City Council approved a plan to eliminate about 200 parking spaces near the beach.

For the DOT, which has authority over parking along state-owned roads, the barrier island had pushed the issue too far.

Hall immediately rejected the plan to eliminate parking and in February threatened to revoke approval of the city’s entire 2015 parking plan.

“We were getting ready to go into a battle with them revoking our parking plan,” Carroll said. “Luckily, at the last minute, both Secretary Hall and Administrator (Desiree) Fragoso worked well together.”

The compromise that appears to have now ended the dispute adds more free parking along Palm Boulevard by installing angled parking where only parallel parking had existed. All the angled spaces are on the land side of the road where there’s a large right-of-way, while the beach side of the road will continue to have parallel parking.

“This is going to be so much better,” said Carroll. “It’s going to be organized parking on Palm Boulevard.” He added, “it increases parking on Palm Boulevard, but protects the neighborhoods and our parking plan. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Police Chief Kevin Cornett said the new layout should improve public safety because it leaves a large shoulder area between the parking spots and Palm Boulevard.

State workers were still laying out the spaces late on April 19 but the final result is expected to be between 220 and 260 parking spots where there used to be 190, Hall said.

No palmetto trees were removed as part of the plan.

City Councilman Randy Bell said Isle of Palms had worked with DOT on the dimensions of the parking spots to assure they are large enough to handle even generously sized pickup trucks, while allowing 12 feet between the road and the back of the parked cars.

“The city’s goal is safe parking, not to keep people out of here,” he said.

That’s not the perception thousands of people had in 2020 when the city talked about eliminating parking and charging for what remained. Aggrieved residents of Mount Pleasant formed a Facebook group that later became an organized nonprofit, which filed suit against the city.

With the parking dispute seemingly resolved, Isle of Palms and DOT are still in disagreement over recent changes to the Isle of Palms Connector, the main bridge to the island. DOT recently added bicycle and pedestrian lanes to the causeway at the expense of a center lane reserved for emergency vehicles.

Both the city and SCDOT plan to conduct traffic studies to evaluate the results.

‘Transit deserts’ remain as Charleston continues to grow

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As cars sped down Rivers Avenue past the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority’s North Charleston SuperStop, Roy Briggs sat outside, waiting for his bus to arrive.“They need more buses,” Briggs said. “This place is getting bigger.”The Lowcountry’s cities and suburbs have seen a sharp growth in population and development in recent years, with Census Bureau estimates showing a 23 percent increase in residents across the tri-county area over the last 10 year...

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As cars sped down Rivers Avenue past the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority’s North Charleston SuperStop, Roy Briggs sat outside, waiting for his bus to arrive.

“They need more buses,” Briggs said. “This place is getting bigger.”

The Lowcountry’s cities and suburbs have seen a sharp growth in population and development in recent years, with Census Bureau estimates showing a 23 percent increase in residents across the tri-county area over the last 10 years.

From Daniel Island to Dorchester County, parts of the Charleston area that were once sparsely populated have become packed with new houses, apartments, and employment centers, leading to increased traffic on major thoroughfares like I-26 and two-lane highways such as Ashley River Road.

With the Lowcountry’s population continuing to surge, has the region’s public transit infrastructure kept up with the growth?

Daniel Island is filled with walkable neighborhoods, businesses along Seven Farms Drive, and sizable office buildings that are home to large employers such as Benefitfocus and Blackbaud.

Just a few decades ago, nearly all of the buildings that can now be found within this suburban section of the City of Charleston did not exist. Now, Daniel Island is one of Berkeley County’s most expensive areas to live, with I-526 serving as the primary way in and out.

However, despite Daniel Island’s transformation, the community remains a transit desert, with no CARTA or TriCounty Link buses that would allow people to commute to or from the opportunities that exist on the island.

“Transit desert is a technical term used to describe an area where you have a high demand for public transit but a low supply, or you don’t have any public transit supply at all in that region,” University of Texas at Austin Urban Information Lab Director Junfeng Jiao explained.

Jiao, who came up with the term “transit desert” nearly a decade ago, studies places across the United States where there is a lack of public transportation.

North Charleston sits just across the Cooper River from Daniel Island, with the Don Holt Bridge connecting the two, but if one does not have a car or cannot afford a taxi or rideshare service, traveling from one side of the river can be easier said than done. There is no sidewalk or bike lane on the bridge and no public buses travel over it.

“Not everybody can afford a car. Not everybody can drive a car. Not everybody is willing to drive a car,” Jiao said.

Daniel Island is far from the only part of the Charleston area that is not served by public transportation.

In North Charleston, Palmetto Commerce Parkway has become one of the Lowcountry’s primary centers for industrial jobs, with numerous warehouses and facilities for companies such as Mercedes-Benz, FedEx, and Boeing lining the road. However, much of the Palmetto Commerce Parkway corridor does not have bus service.

Getting to Charleston County’s coastal communities, where there are a number of large employers in the hospitality industry, is also an arduous task using public transportation.

“Most of the people don’t want to hire you if you got to use mass transit as your way of getting to work,” Briggs said.

CARTA’s 31 bus travels along Folly Road on James Island, but terminates more than two miles before downtown Folly Beach. At Kiawah Island, TriCounty Link’s C204 bus only travels as far as Freshfields Village, but does not reach the island itself. Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island also do not have daily mass transit service.

“If you don’t have a car, you cannot afford, or you cannot drive a car, your life depends on bus schedules, so you have to carefully plan out your day based on bus schedules,” Jiao said. “If you miss a bus or if the bus is coming late, your day is totally changed.”

In some areas of the Lowcountry where there are public buses, there are limitations as to when service is in operation.

CARTA’s XP3 bus, which connects the Dorchester Village Shopping Center at the southern edge of Summerville with downtown Charleston, does not operate on weekends.

On CARTA’s main routes between downtown Charleston and West Ashley, the last outbound bus on Sunday evenings leaves at 6:05 while the route along Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant does not run on Sundays at all.

“We believe our service is actually running at the hours that demand dictates,” CARTA Chairman Mike Seekings said, adding that the agency needs to ensure that when they send buses to places, people are in fact utilizing them.

With more people moving to the Lowcountry on a daily basis, could changes be made to local transit systems?

“I think the region is finally sort of getting to a place where there’s recognition that transit is vital to the health of a community,” Charleston Moves Executive Director Katie Zimmerman said. “Transportation options affect everyone.”

Charleston Moves advocates for walkers, bikers, and transit riders in the Lowcountry, but Zimmerman said that improved public transportation would impact car drivers as well, potentially leading to fewer personal vehicles on the road.

“Since right now, we’re a state where the majority of trips are taken by motor vehicle, I would guess that what bothers people the most is sitting in traffic,” Zimmerman said. “If we can chip away at that, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Wouldn’t you be so happy to see fewer cars on the road?”

Zimmerman added that alleviating transit deserts would have positive environmental impacts and allow for reduced vehicle emissions, noting that “transportation is the largest source of climate changing emissions in our state at this point.”

“Even if you’re never going to get out of your car, you’re going to want to be involved and support these other modes of transit,” Zimmerman said.

The Lowcountry does not have commuter rail, light rail, or bus lanes, but over the last few years, some changes have been made to the region’s transit network.

“This summer, we ran what we consider to be a very successful pilot program going to Isle of Palms from Mount Pleasant,” Seekings said, referring to the Beach Reach shuttle that operated on weekends. “We had the oldest fleet of buses in America just four years ago. We’re in the process of [the] complete replacement of those.”

Another initiative, Lowcountry Rapid Transit, is expected to bring increased bus service that will run from downtown Charleston along the Rivers Avenue corridor to Ladson, but the project is not slated to be completed until 2026 and is no longer set to terminate in downtown Summerville.

“As the region grows, we’re going to grow with it,” Seekings said. “As with any agency, we do have funding limitations. We get funding sources from a number of different places, but those limitations are real. We put equipment on the road. We get it to the places that we know people need the service within our budget limitations. We don’t have an endless budget.”

“Recently the federal government has made a huge commitment to investing in regional and local public transportation and we expect CARTA to be the beneficiary of that,” Seekings added. “We’ll use those resources to make sure that the service goes to places that people need to go, where they’re going from, and we will look to expansion of services as our budget expands.”

With transit deserts such as Daniel Island remaining, do recent efforts go far enough to add local public transportation options?

“I would say the number one issue with why we don’t have the transit system we should is because we are not investing in it,” Zimmerman said. “The state invests very little in public transit in South Carolina and meanwhile at the same time, we’re investing literally billions trying to set aside for highway construction [and] highway widening.”

Zimmerman cited the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s proposed changes to I-526, which are estimated to cost $4 billion.

“If we as a community and as a state were willing to invest in transit the way apparently some agencies are willing to invest in highways, we would be doing a lot better,” Zimmerman said.

For a map of CARTA bus routes, click here. A map of TriCounty Link bus routes can be viewed here.

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20 years in the making, long-envisioned Magnolia project to see initial development in ’22

The first signs of development could soon blossom to reclaim a large contaminated industrial site on Charleston’s upper peninsula, nearly two decades after the process began.Highland Resources is expected to begin construction on the first phase of roads and underground utilities by the spring in the long-anticipated Magnolia project.The Houston-based developer completed the purchase of the 190-acre site in 2018 for $52 million through a bankruptcy auction after the previous owners faltered in the aftermath of the crippli...

The first signs of development could soon blossom to reclaim a large contaminated industrial site on Charleston’s upper peninsula, nearly two decades after the process began.

Highland Resources is expected to begin construction on the first phase of roads and underground utilities by the spring in the long-anticipated Magnolia project.

The Houston-based developer completed the purchase of the 190-acre site in 2018 for $52 million through a bankruptcy auction after the previous owners faltered in the aftermath of the crippling recession in 2008.

Highland invested another $35 million in environmental remediation that included laying down a fabric-like barrier and adding at least another foot of dirt on top of it.

“We remediated a lot of the contaminated soil, put down the barrier and added 1.6 million cubic feet of clean fill dirt,” Highland Resources CEO Clark Davis said.

The remediation work is the unsexy part of the project, Magnolia spokesman Jonathan Scott said.

“Once you see streets and sidewalks, it becomes apparent they are starting to build out this property,” he added.

The site, with much of it marsh, features 81 developable acres. The project will be divided into three phases with buildout over more than 15 years.

Street talk

The first 20-acre development project will include office, retail and apartments on the south end of the Magnolia site near an $8 million bridge built in 2010 as a connection from Heriot Street.

It has long been dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere,” a label frowned upon by the developer. The first phase of vertical construction, set to begin in 2023 and two decades in the making, could undo the infamous moniker.

The 1,400-foot-long span is open to pedestrians but closed to vehicular traffic.

The second and third phases will include a mix of uses on the rest of the property, with plans for waterfront offices and possibly a hotel near the Ashley River.

A storm drain has been installed down the center of the site leading to the river.

“It’s large enough to put a small SUV through,” Davis said.

The site has been approved for 4,080 housing units, 1.05 million square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail space and 1,040 hotel rooms.

At full buildout, Magnolia will add more than 10,000 residents to Charleston, already the largest city in South Carolina. At least 15 percent of the housing will be set aside as workforce units.

Building heights will range from three to nine stories with the tallest buildings concentrated in the middle of the development and five stories near the marsh.

The plan sets aside 24 acres of public parks, and it preserves more than 49 acres of marsh.

Most of the usable open space will be along the waterfront, creating a continuous park that will stretch into the marsh and include at least two public access points. The plan also includes neighborhood greens, parks, plazas and public squares as well as entertainment venues.

Construction on a waterfront park will occur along with development of the first 20 acres, Scott said.

Once one phase is completed, work on the next one will begin within 18-24 months under the current development plan, Davis said.

“We have a lot of interest from people who want to build out here,” Davis said. “We want something top quality and generational. … We are trying to find one master developer to come in and work on the project.”

The Highland CEO also pointed out the company has made its investment in the project for the long haul.

“We really believe in the project and intend to make a long-term commitment,” Davis said.

One tenant remains on the site. Parker Marine sits on the waterfront but is expected to vacate the property by the end of 2022.

History of contamination

Decades ago, the site was a heavy-industrial zone that housed fertilizer factories, a lumber-treatment plant and other businesses. Those former tenants left behind a legacy of lead, arsenic, creosote and other contaminants in the soil.

The first reuse plan began to emerge about 20 years ago. Led by Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners, the Magnolia backers set out to scrub the dirt clean so it could be built upon, describing the big infill project as the largest redevelopment of polluted land in South Carolina.

The original investors formed two companies, Ashley I and Ashley II, which began buying up property in 2002. Over time, they closed 33 deals and amassed nearly 200 contiguous acres around Braswell and Milford streets. Their master plan called for a small city to rise from the former industrial wasteland.

But the ambitious deal faltered and never regained its footing. Hobbled by the 2008 downturn, cleanup expenses and litigation costs, Ashley I and Ashley II filed for bankruptcy in 2016, listing debts of more than $23 million. They also disclosed they had invested nearly $50 million in the Magnolia deal.

When Highland prevailed as the winning bidder, its then-CEO said the privately held firm cited years of experience dealing with contaminated real estate and successfully working with environmental regulators.

More than half of the land the company acquired was so contaminated that it was designated a federal “Superfund” site in 1994 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Paperwork has now been filed to have that portion of the site taken off the EPA’s “National Priority List” in September.


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