Friday, October 29, 2010

Why we moved to Charleston

Here is an article from the Washington Post outlining our reasons for relocating to Charleston..

Best Places to Retire in the South: Charleston, S.C.


Southern Charms

A steady stream of retirees are finding their way to Charleston and South Carolina's Lowcountry


Suzanne Hardie found herself drawn to Charleston, S.C., and its pedestrian-friendly, antebellum waterfront after wrapping up her chemical-engineering career with Procter & Gamble Co. She had been living in a small German city, where she walked everywhere and enjoyed the historical charm.

Journal Reports In fact, a few years before Ms. Hardie, who is 57 years old, and
her husband Frank, 62, moved to Charleston in 2008, they Read the complete Next: Living & Planning the New Retirement, bought a two-bedroom condo facing the Cooper River. Now they enjoy being a few blocks from the downtown hubbub while also
being able to watch porpoises and herons from their porch.

Best Places to Retire: Delaware's Sussex

"We have one car, but we hardly use it," Ms. Hardie says. "You see history wherever you go. If you look across the river from us, the USS Yorktown is stationed there. [And] I'm right by Battery which is where the Civil War started" with the shelling of Fort Sumter.

The Hardies are part of a steady stream of retirees finding their way to South Carolina's Lowcountry, an area that sweeps inland from the barrier islands of the Atlantic and extends some 150 miles along the state's coast. Charleston sits in the center of this landscape and reflects its multiple personalities: a mix of cultural offerings, entertainment, history and natural beauty.

Full Calendar

The city proper is relatively small, with about 115,000 residents. But new arrivals find no shortage of activities. Shops and gourmet restaurants are plentiful; schools reach out to older students (the College of Charleston offers a member-led Center for Creative Retirement with field trips, weekly meetings, study groups and lunches); and art festivals fill the calendar. Among the most prominent is the Spoleto Festival USA, a two-week extravaganza each spring.

And then there's Charleston's unique look. Its historic core, nestled between two rivers, features pastel-painted colonial homes and churches dating to the 1700s. The Battery, at the city's southern tip, features monuments and military relics,
overlooks the rivers and harbor, and is a favorite place for many residents to walk. Nearby are plantations and gardens open for tours, along with pristine Atlantic beaches.

"It's exceeded our expectations," says Allan Anderson. Mr. Anderson and his wife, Jane, both 67, initially settled on nearby Kiawah Island in 2004 after living in London for eight years, where Mr. Anderson finished his career with brokerage firm
Edward Jones. In 2007, the couple decided to move to Charleston. Now their home is a converted store with a walled brick courtyard.

Today, the Andersons often pack two events into one night, such as a reception for a nonprofit group followed by a College of Charleston basketball game. "I can't imagine not living here," Mr. Anderson says.

That sentiment is heard often among transplants to the area, particularly when the conversation turns to museums, galleries and the like. Last year, Anne Fortson, 63, and her husband David, 66, started splitting time between homes in town and on the nearby Isle of Palms. As a present, she gave him a membership to the Charleston Library Society, founded in 1748, which bills itself as "the South's oldest cultural institution." Among the benefits: lectures by authors associated with the city, including novelist Pat Conroy.

Fred Himmelein, 65, describes Charleston as a "cultural welcome wagon." He and his wife Abby, 67, moved to the city in 2006 after retiring from their careers in law and owning health-food stores in Indianapolis. (They still have a store in Muncie, Ind.) The couple's home in Charleston originally served as a Civil War hospital. Today, he serves on the board of the city symphony, while Ms. Himmelein participates in a women's giving circle that pools members' contributions to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries. She also is a volunteer advocate for abused children and works for a domestic-violence shelter.

Homes Are Pricey

Unfortunately, the city's appeal to tourists and second-home shoppers means newcomers won't find the housing bargains available elsewhere in the South. The median cost of an existing single-family home in the Charleston-North Charleston area was $197,500 earlier this year, down 0.4% from 2009, according to the National
Association of Realtors. The South's median fell 2% from last year to $155,500.

Prices in Charleston's historic areas are considerably higher. Ms. Hardie and her husband paid $2.1 million several years ago for their 2,500-square-foot condominium overlooking a waterfront park.

Another disadvantage: Beyond a bare-bones bus system, Charleston doesn't have much in the way of public transportation. But a local affiliate of the nonprofit group ITNAmerica offers rides 24 hours a day to older adults in the area.

Charleston also gets a bad rap, or used to, as a place where outsiders have a tough time joining established civic and social circles. But most new arrivals say cold shoulders, if they ever existed, are a thing of the past.

"If you're engaged in the community and are giving back, you're welcomed here," says Harriet Smartt, 69, a retired career consultant at George Mason University in Virginia who moved to Charleston 16 years ago. As a Carolina Art Association board member, she does fund raising for the Gibbes Museum of Art, which houses more
than 10,000 works of Southern decorative arts.

Ms. Smartt also says she's partial to Lowcountry cuisine, which features shrimp, grits and other Southern specialties.

"Charleston is a very European-like city to me," she says. "For a community this size, you cannot go anywhere and get a bad meal—unless you go looking for it."


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