Kaid Benfield Archive


A video mini-lesson in smart growth, conceived and realized

Kaid Benfield

Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:32PM

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     I'On (by: I'On Group)

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina sits across the Cooper River from Charleston.  In planning and development circles, it is known as home to I'On (pronounced eye'-ahn), a new urbanist community with walkable streets, compactly designed neighborhoods, green features and a village center.  Although one would not call it highly urban at 769 planned homes on 243 acres, that is partly due to geographic limitations and land given to commercial and civic functions.  One can readily see that it is much more dense than the development that surrounds it:

  I'On outlined (via Google Earth) 

In addition, the density would have been greater but for a protracted NIMBY fight waged by nearby residents when the development was proposed, including a lawsuit.  Plans for multifamily and rental housing dropped out altogether as a result, compromising not just density but affordability.  Some 400 residences were eliminated.  But the results are nevertheless striking and impressive.  This is development that is easy to like.

What follows is a really good video narrated by developer Vince Graham, which gives us both a quick history and a nice overview of the project, including lots of good visuals.  I think it is also a great introduction to many of the features and lessons of smart growth.  Among them:

  • How historical antecedents can inform good community design
  • The importance of the public realm
  • NIMBY fears and accommodations (presented with some humor)
  • How the development is evolving and might evolve further
  • Which properties have weathered the real estate crisis with the least damage

I like it a lot.  Enjoy:


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