By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Carolina bays are prehistoric Atlantic Seaboard depressions that are most eye-catching a hundred or more miles up the coast.

They support abundant wildlife and plant growth while exhibiting the capacity to stand the test of time.

In its own way, the residential Carolina Bay in metro Charleston is emerging with similar traits — blending neighborhoods among pristine oaks and wetlands while summoning the strength to survive a national housing drop-off.

Pulte Group is the prime builder in the 1,000-acre Carolina Bay master-planned community, in line for 1,900 houses between Savannah Highway and Glenn McConnell Parkway not far north of Bees Ferry Road.

The Michigan-based company is marketing homes under its name as well as that of Centex, the Texas builder that launched the community in the mid 2000s and merged with Pulte a few years back.

Still years from completion, Carolina Bay in the past few months opened a second attractions center anchored by a swimming pool and showcasing a children’s playground and park.

Carolina Bay canvasses eight neighborhoods, all but two reachable from U.S. Highway 17 South. They are Essex, Rice Field, Creekside, Cypress and Salt Grass single-family subdivisions; and Bridgewater, Tidewater and Essex townhomes, according to Marshland Communities, which oversees the Carolin Bay homeowners’ association. Pulte is selling new homes in Creekside, Cypress and Essex, and Centex is marketing houses in Rice Field and Bridgewater.

Essex and Essex Townhomes can only be reached now from S.C. Highway 61 bypass, but based on the master plan would be tied in at some point via a north-south access road through the community.

Interest has spread about the village, noted for green space, sidewalks, traditional single-family homes, conveniently placed townhomes and carefully situated amenities areas.

The allure is not only from greater Charleston but online from the Northeast and Midwest among other places.

“I moved here from Chicago,” says Marvin Nochowitz, who in fall 2007 retired with his wife Lana Nochowitz to Salt Grass at Carolina Bay.

The couple discovered Carolina Bay on the Internet and were up to speed about the neighborhood before deciding to relocate here six years ago. “I retired in June (of that year), my wife (a nurse) in August and we moved in September,” he says.

The Nochowitzes believe they made a good choice. “We are enjoying it. The people are very friendly,” he says, noting that many homeowners arrived from out of state and were eager to make friends with their new neighbors.

“The location is fantastic, close to the peninsula,” he says. Salt Grass, in particular, is dotted with still ponds and ancient oak trees. “We are thrilled with it,” Nochowitz says. “Everywhere you look there are old forests. It’s pretty attractive.”

The couple is generally pleased with the community’s growth including the recent opening of another amenities center with a second pool.

At the same time, they are happy with the proximity to Charleston’s restaurants and sights.

“We like it just the way it is,” he says.

To get to Carolina Bay from downtown Charleston, head west across the Ashley River Bridge to Savannah Highway. Continue straight on the highway, passing the Interstate 526 interchange. After about eight miles, turn right on Carolina Bay Drive. Ahead is Carolina Bay. To reach Essex, steer right after the Ashley River Bridge onto S.C. Highway 61. Follow the highway across Sam Rittenberg Boulevard where it becomes Ashley River Road. Veer left onto Glenn McConnell Parkway. After a mile or so, turn left on Essex Farms Drive into Essex Townhomes and Essex.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

CAROLINA BAY AT A GLANCE:

Location: Charleston (West Ashley)

Number of homes: 1,900 (when built out)

Square footage: 1,443-3,191

Look & feel: Families, empty nesters, professionals and seniors reside in the diverse, varied community. Residents enjoy the neighborhood attractions, made more substantial with the recent opening of a second pool, park and amenities center. Neighbors get together in groups such as book clubs. Buyers can choose from Charleston single style homes, traditional houses and townhomes spread among eight neighborhoods off Savannah Highway and Highway 61. Enclaves differ: at least one offers detached garages, for instance. The 1,000-acre spread also includes miles of walking and biking trails.

Homes on market: 38

List prices: $161,888-$428,900

Schools: Oakland Elementary, St. Andrews Middle, West Ashley High

Fun facts: Carolina Bay gets its name from the shallow, miles-wide elliptical holes found along the Atlantic coast but concentrated in South Carolina and North Carolina; some street signs echo southern history such as the intersection of Manassas Drive and Shiloh Lane.