Saturday, August 06, 2005 - Last Updated:
I'On eyes Mt. Pleasant site
Developer has contract to buy 107-acre tract along
Rifle Range Road
BY JOHN P. MCDERMOTT
Of The Post and Courier Staff
The developer behind the critically acclaimed I'On
neighborhood in Mount Pleasant is at it again.
The I'On Group wants to build a mix of homes and
commercial space on land in East Cooper where another developer had proposed
to build a shopping center, triggering a groundswell of opposition from area
The company said Friday it has a contract to buy 107
acres along Rifle Range Road and nearby Hungryneck Boulevard from McAlister
Development Co. The site includes the Hassell Tract, as well as additional
Led by Vince Graham, I'On made its mark in Mount
Pleasant with its namesake development off Mathis Ferry Road, a so-called
neo-traditional community patterned after downtown Charleston and other
pedestrian-oriented cities. About 500 pricey and architecturally diverse
homes have been built in the nationally recognized neighborhood since
construction started eight years ago.
Terms of its latest land acquisition were not
disclosed, but LeGrand Elebash, chief operations officer of I'On, said the
property is widely viewed as one of the most significant "infill"
development sites left in the heart of Mount Pleasant.
I'On officials met this week with representatives from
some neighborhood groups in the area to discuss its plans, which for now are
"strictly conceptual," he said. The company also has held talks with town
planning officials, Elebash said.
"It's obviously a pivotal piece of land in the
dead-center of Mount Pleasant. ... It's such a centralized and important
location that it's got to be done right," he said.
The majority of the land is not within the town's
limits, and I'On would want to have the entire site annexed, he said. At the
same time, the company needs to negotiate a development agreement with the
town that addresses Mount Pleasant's self-imposed limit on residential
building permits. Without such an assurance, I'On would have trouble selling
"We'll have to have some kind of an agreement on
building permits," Elebash said. "But the town knows that with a development
agreement, they ultimately still exert a fair amount of control over what
A rezoning request that would have allowed 500,000
square feet of retail space, roughly equivalent to the size of the Mount
Pleasant Towne Centre, to be built on the property touched off a major
land-use controversy this year. A swarm of nearby homeowners objected to the
idea, saying it would add too much traffic on the primarily residential
Rifle Range Road.
In June, town officials nixed a proposal that would
have allowed McAlister Development to build its project on 80 acres.
Jim Poch of Mount Pleasant Citizens for Traditional
Neighborhoods, which opposed McAlister's plan, was among the homeowners who
met with I'On officials Thursday night. He said liked what he heard.
"We always want to see the details before we endorse
something, but if I'On can deliver what its track record suggests, it's very
possible the town ... will get 250 activists acting on behalf of a
developer," Poch said.
Anthony McAlister, president of McAlister Development,
declined to elaborate about the potential land sale Friday, citing
confidentiality agreements he has signed. "But I know these guys will do a
good job," he said of the I'On Group.
Graham and his company have recently been working on
Morris Square, a residential and commercial project in downtown Charleston,
and the redevelopment of the John C. Calhoun Homes neighborhood in North
Elebash said the company wants this next proposed
project "to be like I'On in terms of quality -- the quality of the public
realm, the parks, the streets. But architecturally we may consider being
more relaxed," he said.
Another difference is that the company will try to
build considerably more commercial space than it did in I'On, Elebash said.
"The beauty of having more neighborhood commercial
space ... is that you catch vehicle trips internally that otherwise would go
to interior roads somewhere else," he said. "If you don't have enough of it,
people have to get on the road to get what they need."
The company plans to put "a healthy dose" of space for
businesses along Hungryneck Boulevard, Elebash said. "We're not interested
in putting more commercial traffic on Rifle Range Road," he said.