WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCIV) --As Charleston's population expands, the surrounding towns are looking to improve their infrastructures dramatically.
City planners predict in the next 15 years 90,000 people will live in West Ashley, and they need to prepare for its growth.
To do that, city planners say the Citadel Mall is the centerpiece of the growth strategy. They're using the area to capitalize on Charleston's population boom by developing a much different area where current and future residents can live, work, and play.
"I will tell you that it's the most fun and interesting thing that we are working on at the city of Charleston," explained Tim Keane, the city of Charleston's director of planning.
He told members of the West Ashley - James Island Business Association that he has high hopes for the people and property along Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and other neighborhoods.
"We think of it as West Ashley is in competition with Summerville, Mount Pleasant, other places for attracting really high quality businesses," said Keane.
He referred to the busy corridors leading into and out of West Ashley. City leaders say they're focused on the Citadel Mall area, where plans include re-developing it into a hub for living and working.
"But what a great idea to think in terms of the Citadel Mall being a second downtown with shops, restaurants, housing, apartments, condos where you can live, work, and eat," said Charleston City Councilman Dean Riegel.
City planners say their economic development strategy includes fixing West Ashley's traffic problems. They believe completing the Mark Clark Expressway will handle the extra thousands of people who are expected to move here.
"I'm just a believer that West Ashley -- their time has come," said David Mantek.
He owns retail properties West of the Ashley. He says his company is already investing.
"A lot of that development money that went to other locations in the past few years is now coming here. And it's time. So I think there's nothing but growth in our future for West Ashley," said Mantek.
The city's planning department is also looking for community input. They'll hold a public hearing on June 10 at Ashley River Creative Arts School. City officials hope to have the overall plan finished by the end of the year.