In the first half of the twentieth century, historic urban areas in America were retrofitted to accommodate a mass amount of automobile traffic. These retrofits came in the form of highways, thruways, and one-way streets. Many historic commercial streets in American downtowns were converted to one-way streets, because of traffic engineers' narrow perspectives. After decades of decline, largely linked to automobile dominance, downtown economic revitalization emerged in the 1990s. One technique that appears to be remarkably successful is the re-conversion of one-way streets to two-way streets.
One-way streets allow for greater traffic capacity and higher automobile speeds, while two-way streets provide the same functionality, while also increasing pedestrian safety and business visibility, essentials for successful downtowns. In 2002, the National Trust's Main Street program, dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of historic commercial streets, acknowledged the use of one-way to two-way conversions, but declared the need for more research on the topic in 2002.
Charleston, South Carolina's major downtown retail center is the historic King Street corridor. Over time, King Street has undergone numerous transportation changes and traffic patterns. In 1956 a section of Upper King Street was converted to one-way traffic, to serve as an arterial road, negatively affected the street's intended purpose as a business corridor. The area subsequently became unattractive, dangerous, and economically unsuccessful. Along with other revitalization methods, Upper King Street was reconverted to two-way traffic in 1994. Because of this conversion, the area has regained its status as a cultural and retail hub in the City of Charleston.
In order to include the case study of Charleston's Upper King Street in the discussion of downtown revitalization and historic preservation through traffic calming methods, this thesis includes a comparison of one-way to two-way streets as commercial corridors and a report on the history and practice of such conversions. Following these informational chapters, this thesis presents a detailed history of Upper King Street from 1950 to 1990, including major economic, transportation and preservation actions. While the project is generally considered a success, no previous statistical analysis has been available to validate this conclusion. Included in this thesis is an analysis of business type, vacancy rates, and a regression model of real estate prices for proving the significance of the conversion on property values. This analysis reveals that the 1994 one-way to two-way conversion was significant in contributing to the enhancement of the property values of properties on King Street.
Beyond, an increase in property values, the one-way to two-way conversion of Upper King Street, generated a new interest in the commercial properties along the street, increased pedestrian activity of the area because of increased safety and general attractiveness, and has acted as catalyst in the further preservation of the storefronts lining Charleston's most recognizable street.