The Isle of Palms Connector (SC 517) is a 3.84 mile fixed span bridge connecting the mainland town of Mount Pleasant, SC with the island on the Charleston, Carolina coast which created opportunities for commercial development along US 17.
Project Type:Bridge Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:23,600 Length (mi):4.00
Economic Distress:1.09 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):371 Population Growth Rate (%):1.63
Employment Growth Rate (%):2.65 Market Size:228,216 Airport Travel Distance:13 Topography:1
Region:Southeast State:SC County:County
City:Mt Pleasant, Isle of Palms Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:32.810551 / -79.804317
Initial Study Date:N/A Post Constr. Study Date:1998
Constr. Start Date:1990 Constr. End Date:1993
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): N/A Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):35,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):57,655,738
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||136.02||97.56||233.58|
|Output (in $M's)||331.64||237.86||569.50|
The Isle of Palms Connector is a 3.84 mile fixed span bridge connecting the mainland town of Mount Pleasant, SC with the island on the Charleston, Carolina coast. The Isle of Palms is a resort community with a mix of seasonal and year-round suburban residents. The new bridge had a limited impact on land use on the island. It did, however, create opportunities for commercial development along US 17 in the mainland town of Mount Pleasant. The $35 million Bridge opened up new sites for commercial development here, producing an estimated 1,150,000 square feet of commercial floor space and 2,856 jobs.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The Isle of Palms is about 12 miles (20 minutes) from historic Charleston, SC. Interstate 26 connects with Columbia (125 miles) and Greenville, SC (225 miles) to the northwest. Interstate 526, Charleston's outer beltway, provides access to the International Airport, a 30 minute drive northwest of Isle of Palms. I-526 connects with US 17, providing access to the town of Mount Pleasant, on the mainland.
US 17 is a major coastal route through the State of South Carolina, linking with Myrtle Beach (93 miles north) and Savannah (150 miles south). The 3.84 mile IOP Connector Bridge spans the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and marshes between US 17 and the City of Isle of Palms. Before the bridge was completed in 1993, the sole access to the Isle of Palms was via the Ben Sawyer Bridge (SC 703), which connects to Sullivan's Island, 5.5 miles south of the City of Isle of Palms. Figure?1.0 below provides an overview of the area's transportation connections.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
The Isle of Palms is a seven-mile long barrier island, ranging in width from 0.35 miles to 1.6 miles. The total area of the island is 5.5 square miles. The approximate year round population is over 4,000; but during the summer season, the population rises to 12,000 and peaks at roughly 20,000 over major summer holiday weekends.
With a median income of nearly $90,000 in 2000, Mount Pleasant is a fairly affluent community. Much of the development on the island consists of condominiums and rental homes used for seasonal occupancy. Of the estimated 4,000 dwelling units on the island, approximately 40% are owner-occupied, year-round residential units occupied by commuters to the mainland. The island is largely residential. There is relatively little commercial development, outside of the resorts and two convenience shopping centers, and there are few jobs.
In 1975, the Isle of Palms approved plans for the development of a resort community and authorized a zoning district, known as Planned Development District (PDD), for the northern end of the island. Much of this area is known as Wild Dunes, a gated resort community that offers a major resort and amenities, including conference services, golf and tennis facilities as well as single-family and multifamily owner-occupied and seasonal rental dwelling units. Wild Dunes is a popular site for sports events, particularly amateur golf and tennis tournaments. At present, the Isle of Palms is 85% built out and has limited potential for new commercial development.
The Town of Mount Pleasant, on the mainland side of the new bridge, is an exploding outer suburb of 65,000 people. It is the fifth largest municipality in South Carolina, and for several years ago it was one of the State's fastest growing areas, doubling in population size between 1990 and 2000. Most housing units are single-family and owner-occupied. Housing permits issued peaked in 1999 and, since then, the number of new permits has remained steady. Year-round tourism to the town supports 26 retail centers of over 30,000 square feet.
With 9.9 million square feet of office development lining the US 17 corridor, Mount Pleasant offers a diverse range of job opportunities in professional, management, tourism, and health-care industries. Land development in Mount Pleasant is not constrained as it is in the Isle of Palms. The Town's inventory of commercial sites, which total 4 square miles, is only 60% built-out, indicating significant scope for future growth.
The IOP Connector is a two-lane fixed span bridge over the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway linking US 17 in the mainland Town of Mount Pleasant with the City of Isle of Palms, on the south side of the island. South Carolina DOT championed the project and funded it using money designated for special projects and other State funds. The project cost approximately $35 million (in 1990 dollars).
The main objective in constructing the IOP Connector Bridge was to improve access to island for existing residents and tourists. Construction commenced in 1990, with much pre-planning and engineering and right-of-way acquisition already underway before Hugo. Although Hugo was not the impetus for the project, the absence of an evacuation route during Hugo bolstered justification for the project.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Prior to constructing the IOP Connector, Ben Sawyer Bridge (SC 703), which connects the Town of Mount Pleasant to Sullivan's Island, was the only way to access the Isle of Palms. Traffic through the northern part of the island was choking this quiet, affluent, primarily single family community. There are no resort facilities or condominiums on the 3.3 sq. mile Sullivan's Island, and short-term rentals are restricted. Unlike the IOP, Sullivan's Island is not a tourist destination. As such, the major effect of the IOP Connector on Sullivan's Island was reduced congestion and noise, which has visibly improved the environment.
Because access to the Isle of Palms became more convenient due to new connector bridge, the attractiveness of the island as a vacation destination has increased. The new bridge has enabled new tourist activity by day-trippers who can easily access the island's south side for daytime recreation. During the 15-year period since the bridge opened, traffic counts have more than doubled from 11,100 to 23,600, but this growth was uneven. Traffic increased by 70% in the 5 years following construction and then was relatively stagnant for the next five years. During the past five years, it has grown by just under 20% to 23,600 crossings a day. It should be noted that economic cycles have a significant impact on tourist traffic.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Since the 1970s, Wild Dunes has expanded its resort facilities on the northern side of the island to occupy 1,600 acres of private, oceanfront property. Over time Wild Dunes residential accommodations have grown to include The Boardwalk Inn (93 rooms), Villas and Private Homes (more than 350), and The Village at Wild Dunes (120 rooms). Future residential units are planned and some Wild Dunes development opportunities remain, however, capacity for continued resort expansion is limited.
There are two small shopping centers, Island Center (1959) and Ocean Park (1992), located on the IOP. These were built prior to the new bridge. The Island's four-block commercial area consists of tourist-oriented businesses and restaurants. Capacity for new development on the IOP is limited, with approximately 85% of the Island built out prior to the IOP Connector. Over time these development activities would have likely occurred even if the IOP Connector had not been built.
Like elsewhere in the country, property values appreciated significantly on the Isle of Palms and one nearby Sullivan's Island throughout the 2000s. The City has experienced extensive redevelopment of smaller homes into ?monster? scale houses and has established ordinances to limit the size and width of houses on the island.
The most significant development impact occurred on the mainland side of the bridge in the town on Mount Pleasant near the junction of US 17 and the IOP Connector. Development of this area occurred between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, when shopping centers and hotels were built on sites near US 17 just south of the IOP Connector. An estimated l.4 million sq. ft. of commercial floorspace has been developed in the area near the IOP Connector in Mount Pleasant. There are four hotels with 399 rooms to accommodate tourist activity. Four major malls provide retail and entertainment options:
An estimated 2,856 jobs (300 hotel jobs, 2,556 retail jobs) have been created since the IOP Connector opened up new sites for commercial development here. Traditional residential subdivisions were built in Mount. Pleasant in the area near US 17 and the IOP Connector throughout the 1990s, but it is likely that these would have occurred without the new bridge.
As previously noted, given the Island's size and pre-existing development prior to the IOP Connector, there was limited potential for new commercial development. Any future new development around the IOP Connector is likely to be more infill in nature. Since being built, it is estimated that the IOP Connector has generated revenues (e.g., impact fees, business licensing fees, building permits, franchise fees for eclectic services) in excess of $50 million for the town.
When Hurricane Hugo hit the Charleston Coast September 1989, vehicular access to and evacuation from Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms was affected because the force of the storm rotated the Ben Sawyer swing span bridge, leaving it tilted at a 45-degree angle. There was also millions of dollars in property damages to the area. Following the hurricane, the affected communities received substantial insurance proceeds, disaster grants, and loans for rebuilding. As a result, it is difficult to distinguish the economic impacts of the IOP Connector from those due to redevelopment and recovery efforts.
Other factors influencing the growth of the project area were the rapid growth of Charleston Metro Area over the past twenty years. This has driven tourism and second home development on the IOP. . The Charleston metropolitan area grew by 27% between 1990 and 2008. This area has long been a tourist destination, with the annual number of visitors to the area increasing by 270,000 between 2005 and 2007. More recently, however, the tourism industry has been impacted by the national economic downturn, and visitation to the island, as elsewhere, declined in 2008-2009.
Amended Comprehensive Plan for the City of Isle of Palms, South Carolina, Prepared by the Isle of Palms Planning Commission, Revised August 12, 2009
Demographics for the Town of Mount Pleasant 2009, Prepared by The Town of Mount Pleasant Planning & Development Department
Town of Mount Pleasant Comprehensive Plan 2009-2019, Prepared by EDAW/AECOM, October 22, 2009http://www.bensawyerbridge.com/history.shtml http://www.dot.state.sc.us/i526/default.shtml
OrganizationCity of Isle of Palms, Building & Planning City of Isle of Palms, Police Chief SCDOT District Six Town of Mount Pleasant, Traffic Department. Town of Mt. Pleasant, Planning Department Town of Mt. Pleasant, Town Administrator's Office Town of Sullivan Island