Posted: February 15, 2023
Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) is excited to announce the purchase of 80 Ashley Avenue, the former Century Service Station, through its Frances R. Edmunds Endangered Properties Fund. This fund was created in 1957 as a revolving fund for the preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods. Since its inception, the fund has saved 6 city blocks in the Ansonborough neighborhood and 140 historic buildings throughout the city.
80 Ashley Avenue has been vacant for over 30 years and has suffered from demolition-by-neglect. Working closely with the adjacent neighbors and Harleston Village Neighborhood Association, HCF’s primary goal is save the building – one of the few historic service stations left on the peninsula – and sell it to a preservation-minded buyer once consensus is reached on an appropriate, neighborhood-scaled commercial use. The building is in need of immediate stabilization to prevent its collapse, and construction plans are underway now.
80 Ashley Avenue is a historic, brick-masonry building that was built as the Century Service Station in 1929 and later expanded in the 1930s with two additional garage bays. Prior to 1929, 80 Ashley was home to a wood frame corner/grocery store. Efforts by the private sector to save the building and put it back into use have failed due to its residential zoning and location in an area prone to flooding. Consequently, HCF felt compelled by its mission to intervene, purchase the building, and aid the community in solving this intractable problem.
Vibrant cities like Charleston should offer a mix of properly-scaled commercial uses – even within residential neighborhoods. Neighborhoods flourish because pedestrians with different purposes intersect throughout the course of a day, and there is visible life and activity in the public realm. We see this in older neighborhoods, where a diversity of uses has historically thrived. Businesses serving neighborhood residents were typically woven into the fabric of the community.
The Preservation Plan for the City of Charleston proposed a Charleston Vision that set forth a long-term direction for the city and serves as the foundation for future planning. The Charleston Vision statement emphasizes the importance of a diverse mix of uses to make Charleston a truly living city with continuing neighborhood vitality and livability. The “Land Use and Regulation” section of the Preservation Plan recommends that “a diversity of uses should be maintained…and reintroduced to the Lower Peninsula, if possible.” The Plan further cautioned against the automatic “down-zoning” of commercial properties in order to maintain Charleston’s historic diversity of uses evident in neighborhoods across the peninsula.
While we acknowledge that prior proposals to readapt the site drew the opposition of adjacent neighbors, we believe that maintaining neighborhood-scaled commercial uses in residential zones, especially on a corner, is a net positive for the historic district. The peninsula is dotted with neighborhood stores, cafes, and even restaurants which have achieved symbiosis with the neighborhood residents they serve. We wholeheartedly believe this can and will occur with 80 Ashley Avenue.
HCF is committed to a robust engagement with the immediately adjacent neighbors, along with the broader neighborhood, to determine the appropriate future for 80 Ashley Avenue. Via the implementation and enforcement of restrictive covenants, which can govern things such as hours and use, we believe that we can ensure that the future of 80 Ashley Avenue reflects the needs and wants of the neighbors – now and into the future.