Celebrating Ten Years

Celebrating Ten Years

June 6, 2023

Categories: Legends Magazine, Lifestyle

South Street Partners took over as master community developer more than ten years ago, and the Island has seen incredible change and growth during their tenure. Chris Randolph, Will Culp, Patrick Melton, and Jordan Phillips look back at some of the most memorable moments of the last decade.

What are some highlights from the last ten years?

Chris: It is tough to narrow it down! In our first meeting with the real estate team, Don Rutledge told us that he had “ties older than you boys.” That certainly sticks out! It was incredible to watch Ocean Park take shape as our first major neighborhood development. Seeing it activated with the opening of the Marsh House and the first few years of Party in the Park with Darius Rucker were both very gratifying. Partnering with Mike Lata to reimagine the Beach Club restaurant into the B-Liner was another highlight. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we witnessed the resilience and resourcefulness of our Kiawah team members. I am proud to say that we retained one hundred percent of our staff and management team throughout the pandemic. The 2021 PGA Championship was an absolutely incredible experience and electric atmosphere. You could feel everyone’s energy. And finally, breaking ground for the MUSC [Health Sea Islands Medical Pavilion] after seven years of planning and lobbying was a significant achievement. I also think the launch of Advance Kiawah was another important milestone for the community, and we continue to work towards making Kiawah a more diverse and inclusive community and workplace. 

Jordan: A few come to mind! When we first arrived, property values at Cassique were extremely soft and there was no building activity. Now, pricing in Cassique is higher than many other areas on the Island. I’m very proud of that. As Chris mentioned, the creation of Ocean Park and the design of Marsh House are certainly highlights. It has also been exciting to imagine and create multiple new neighborhoods and launch the built-for-sale program. 

Charlotte Elizabeth Photographer

What did you hope to accomplish when you first came to Kiawah?

Patrick: We were thrilled to be the new owners of Kiawah Partners. Our main goal was to expand the trajectory of the previous ownership group. We wanted to continue to elevate Club amenities and the experience throughout the island wherever we could. 

Jordan: The goal was not to mess it up! Everything had been executed so well, and we wanted to keep everything at the highest quality. As I mentioned before, we did want to shift the mindset toward the built-for-sale program. Buyers are not as interested in building a fully custom home, and we wanted to respond to that. We also wanted to expand programming at the Club and continue to push the quality of food and beverage.

Will: Jordan said it perfectly. I remember our first day on the Island as the new stewards. Our goal and mission was to simply not screw it up. We had a vision of enhancing the island development while remaining focused on the “Designing with Nature” concept. What we’ve been able to accomplish over the past ten years has been very rewarding. I still pinch myself knowing that I have the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible place.  

Chris: At a high level, we wanted to be great stewards of the land as the master community developer, while also achieving goals for our investors. But yes, the mantra was “don’t screw it up.” Kiawah had a long history of great design and environmentally sensitive development under the stewardship of Buddy Darby, Leonard Long, Charlie Way, and Frank Brumley. After getting our legs underneath us, our mantra shifted to continuing the legacy of those who came before us and the “Designing with Nature” principles while also weaving in our own best practices, new programming, progressive design, and some “outside of the box” ideas as well. 

How has the original master plan shaped the evolution of the Island in the last ten years?

Patrick: It has truly been our roadmap. We have followed it closely.

Jordan: The original master plan was so thoughtful, and all developers have actually reduced the allowed density from that initial approval from Charleston County. It proved to us that reducing density well below allowable levels creates more long-term value for all stakeholders. Having people like Mark Permar, who has been involved in the planning of the Island since 1979, on our team has proved invaluable.

Chris: Everything we’ve done over the last ten years from a development perspective has been in keeping with the original master plan. The original master plan granted approval for seven thousand units and extensive commercial and hotel development and the Island is on a path to end up having just over five thousand units. 

Will: The vision established for the development of Kiawah drew us to this opportunity ten years ago. And that original vision has certainly guided and shaped our development plans over the years.    

What do you think are your greatest contributions to the Kiawah community?

Patrick: One that really stands out is the Ocean Park community. The neighborhood encompasses many of our development philosophies. We were able to design custom lots of varying widths throughout the neighborhood, while taking into account the large number of live oaks and picking the ideal building envelopes nestled between them. We built a beautiful park with walking and biking trails throughout, plus an incredible amenity in the Marsh House. The more than 70-acre park is the first new park on Kiawah since Night Heron was built. We built a cluster of homes around the amenity with a lock-and-leave concept that was strongly received. And overall, we significantly lowered the density from what was entitled. 

Chris: I think our greatest contribution to Kiawah has been extending our owner’s time on the island. We did so by creating places and programming that have attracted a younger demographic to purchase a home earlier, while at the same time bringing much-needed health care and housing options for our older owners allowing them to age in place for longer.  

Jordan: And we expect the creation of the MUSC Health Sea Islands Medical Pavilion, a twenty-four hour facility, to have a huge impact on long-term property value. We hope it will shift the community to something closer to a fifty-fifty primary/secondary [home] ratio. 

Will: Kiawah is more than a place—it’s a close-knit community. I think our greatest contribution over the years has been to provide a safe, fun, and, most importantly, memorable experience for all who call Kiawah home or home away from home. 

Explain “Designing with Nature.” Why do you think it is so important?

Chris: Designing with Nature is vitally important to Kiawah’s ecologically sensitive habitat. The “Designing with Nature” mandate allows homeowners to live in harmony with the flora and fauna that make Kiawah so special. From an investment perspective, this approach to development has created significant value for our homeowners, as evidenced by the premium the market is willing to pay to live on Kiawah versus some of our regional and national competitors who don’t necessarily follow the same standards of design and development. 

Jordan: Designing with Nature has been the core ethos from day one. This coastal maritime forest landscape is such a unique, beautiful setting. Nature has always been, and will always be, everyone’s primary takeaway from visiting Kiawah.

Charlotte Elizabeth Photographer

Tell me one of your favorite personal memories on Kiawah.

Will: Honestly, watching my kids grow up coming here and the many holidays we’ve been fortunate enough to spend on the Island—all of them hold a special place in my mind. We lived on Kiawah for most of the pandemic and watched how this community came together during a time of intense stress to support each other. Witnessing the transformation of the staff and membership during a time of crisis was an inspiration to me personally.

Jordan: ​​For me it was the first Party in the Park with Darius. What started as a small event our second year turned into a massive production. One of my fondest memories is seeing so many families enjoying themselves that first year.

Chris: My wedding weekend in May of 2018 is definitely my most special memory. Audrey and I were married at Cassique, the same place we had our first date three years prior, in front of our friends, families, and Kiawah family. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about that weekend or have someone bring it up to us in conversation. 

Patrick: One of my favorite memories was when I took my daughter, Sydney, fishing on Kiawah for the first time. She was five years old then, and the largest fish she had ever caught at that point was a foot-long bass off of her grandparents’ dock. Elliot Hillock, who grew up fishing on Kiawah, took us to one of his favorite ponds. It was full of huge red fish. Sydney caught one from the elevated bridge and fought that fish for what seemed like forever. A gator eventually became aware and decided it wanted the fish and began pursuing it too. She finally reeled it in, and we were able to take a quick photo. The fish was almost as big as her! She was so proud of herself and had earned her first great fishing story, complete with an alligator. It was a very special day for both of us. 

What is an experience with an employee or property owner that has shaped the way you see the Island?

Will: We have made our employees a priority over the years, and that’s something I’m very proud of. Our employees and leadership are the reason for our collective success over the past ten years. I have a vivid memory of meeting Ms. Barbara at the Beach Club during our first summer of ownership. Watching how she interacted with the members, and the generational impact she had on families, was something very special to witness. My kids are now ten years older than they were then, and to see their relationship with Ms. Barbara and many others today is truly special. 

Chris: Learning about the history of Kiawah through the eyes of property owners and visionaries like Mark and Diana Permar has absolutely shaped the way I see the Island. They have been a great resource and the ultimate sounding board for many of our ideas (some crazier than others) as they draw on so much history and firsthand experience. 

Why do you think the Kiawah community is so special?

Will: It’s two-fold. It is the unique and intentional development design that proves that development can keep with the core philosophy of Design with Nature. No other island or development exists that matches the commitment that Kiawah has for the natural environment. Second, it is the community of people, both property owners and staff, who serve the same mission of making Kiawah the best community it can be. 

Jordan: I think it is the intentional planning and quality of design. That has been the philosophy from day one. Bringing an architect like Robert Stern down from the Northeast [to design The Beach Club] was unheard of at the time, but the developer has always endeavored to set a high standard. In turn, this encouraged high-quality home design and strong property values.