Charleston's signature housing type is the "'single house" - a narrow house with gracious side piazzas. The single house is but one choice in an ample range of housing indigenous to Charleston. From marshfront condominiums to downtown studio and from four-bedroom homes to splendid mansions in the historic district, every domestic setting can be realized. Charleston's single family market is strong; since 1987, single family production has averaged 310 new homes annually, and multi-family construction averages at 30.4 units per year.
For years, Charleston has made national headlines for its innovative approaches to providing affordable housing. In addition to the award winning designs, the achievements include the incredible rebirth of the central city and a strong revitalization movement northward up the Peninsula and into the neck area. Through its Community Development Division, the City has provided over 2,000 housing units since 1990. The Charleston Housing Authority manages 10 public housing areas as well as 113 units which are scattered throughout the City. The task of providing affordable housing does not fall to City agencies alone. A variety of groups like Habitat for Humanity, Charleston Affordable Housing, Humanities Foundation, Charleston Crisis Ministries, many churches and dedicated individuals offer assistance in the quest to provide decent, attractive, affordable housing and to prevent homelessness. This production task force is leading the way by generating creative financing and design solutions.
Each spring, Charleston hosts Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the most comprehensive arts festival in the country. For two and one-half weeks, the world's finest dancers, musicians and actors take to the stage in a spirited homage to the arts culminating in a in a splendid finale at Middleton Plantation - complete with symphonic fanfare and fireworks. Simultaneous with Spoleto, the City's Office of Cultural Affairs offers a highly evolved and sophisticated fringe festival, Piccolo Spoleto, which showcases the best of regional talent. Informal, affordable and often a little zany and off-beat, the typical Piccolo program includes sidewalk art shows, jazz, classical music, film, crafts, theater, dance and much more, including a long list of daily arts activities for children. Piccolo's tickets average $5.00 but many events are free.
Other cultural events bringing visitors from afar are the annual Moja African-American Arts Festival, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Worldfest Charleston International Film Festival, and biannual House and Garden Tours. Other events which attract visitors are the Harvest Festival at the Charleston Farmers Market, the Christmas Parade of Boats in Charleston Harbor and the Christmas in Charleston Celebration on King Street.
Charleston is governed by a full-time mayor and a city council composed of twelve council members who are elected for staggered four-year terms from single-member districts. He has no veto power but casts a vote similiar to those cast by each member of Council. The Mayor is the chief executive and administrative officer of the City which has no City Manager.
The primary newspaper, The Post and Courier, delivers news daily to 112,000 people while 126,000 receive the comprehensive Sunday edition. Approximately 20 other local publications also serve the area's diverse interests. The tri-county listens to 28 different radio stations with offerings for every musical taste and talk shows for every point of view. Five local television stations and cable services are available throughout the region. A number of free pocket-size publications serve as "what to see and do" guides for both tourists and residents and are widely available in hotels, restaurants and stores, and the Visitor Reception and Transportation Center.
Charleston International Airport provides commercial air service to the entire trident region. Delta, Continental, USAir and Midway are the primary carriers. Amtrak provides daily rail service. Two interstate highways (1-26 and I-526), four major U.S. Highways, and seven major state highways serve the area. Interstate 526 (the Mark Clark Expressway) is a new freeway which forms a semi-circle across the region - from US 17S to US 17N.
Charleston has one major bus system. Bus routes serve Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's Island, the Isle of Palms, North Charleston, West Ashley, James Island, Hanahan, and the Peninsula. The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) which serves downtown workers and visitors has as its focal point, the Visitor Reception and Transportation Center. The buses, modeled to look like trolleys, leave the center regularly and carry the visitors to and from the historic district. The City has developed a number of off street parking facilities within a one block area of DASH routes. Additionally, an expanded rural transit service will be setup by 1997 to operate within the rural areas of the tri-county.
Water transportation is central to the Charleston economy. The City's shipping port system, which offers more than two miles of berthing space, connects Charleston with more than 100 countries all over the globe. Norfolk Southern and the CSX rail system, in addition to 104 motor carriers, allow for the transportation of cargo between the port and the major industrial markets of the U.S.
South Carolina Electric and Gas Company, Santee Cooper and Berkeley Electric Cooperative supply Charleston with electricity. SCE&G also supplies natural gas to the area. Water and sewer service is supplied by the Charleston Commissioners of Public Works. Bell South provides telephone service.
Charleston offers a wide range of educational opportunities for both children and adults. Charleston and Berkely Public Schools System consists of 110 schools and approximately 72,000 students. A nationally recognized Business Education Partnership Program links public schools with business leaders who help shape the schools' career education programs. A bevy of private and parochial schools offer additional educational choices. Since the founding of the College of Charleston in 1770, the City has been a site of higher education. Today, the College of Charleston is a state-supported liberal arts college and university with an enrollment of almost 10,000.
The Medical University, founded in 1824, includes the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentistry, Graduate Studies and Health Related Professions. The Medical University's enrollment is 2,500. The Citadel offers military education to 2,000 cadets and holds evening classes at both undergraduate and graduate level for the general public. Trident Technical College, with an enrollment of approximately 9,000, offers two-year technical and college transfer programs. The internationally recognized Johnson and Wales University grants degrees in the culinary arts. Other educational institutions in the Charleston area include Charleston Southern University, Webster University, Nielson Electronics Institute, Devry Institute of Technology, Limestone College and Central Wesleyan College.
Charleston's medical facilities are among the finest in the country. Five major hospitals, Charleston Memorial, Roper, Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier, Veterans Administration Medical Center and Medical University of South Carolina, are concentrated in an eight- block medical district on the Peninsula. The Medical University is a leading biomedical, teaching, patient care and research center. Its specialized treatment programs include the Children's Hospital, the Storm Eye Institute and the Institute of Psychiatry. In addition to the major hospitals, Charleston has a number of nursing homes, hospice care and convalescent centers.
Efficient and well trained, the Charleston Fire Department has a class I ISO rating, the highest for a city its size in the state. This impressive rating was achieved in only three years. The Charleston Fire Department consists of 210 employees assigned to one of 18 companies. The average response time citywide is less than two minutes.
Charleston County's Emergency Medical Service, along with the Medical University's helicopter and ambulance service provide the city with emergency transport.