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Wrecking Gadsden Green May Be A Harsh But Necessary Reality
9/14/2016 3:05:30 PM

Gadsden Green public housing complex
By Barney Blakeney

An op-ed column printed in a recent edition of the local daily newspaper once again has stirred conjecture about the possible closing of the Charleston Housing Authority’s Gadsden Green public housing complex on the peninsula west side.

The 264-unit complex is among the oldest among the housing authority’s inventory of over 1,300 units and makes up its second largest complex. It’s located in an area bounded by President Street, Hagood Avenue, Line Street and Ashton Street. The newspaper’s columnist wrote a frank assessment of the complex’s position in a rapidly changing community. The headline bluntly stated “Take a Wrecking Ball To Antiquated Local Housing Projects”.

For decades, speculation the complex would be demolished has circulated. Although the housing authority continuously denies any such possibility, the reality of the West Edge redevelopment project taking place adjacent to the complex, gives those conjectures new evidence of validity.

Charleston City Council Dist. 3 representative James Lewis said while the author’s admonition seems cruel, “That’s their intention.”

Eventually, the housing authority will demolish the complex, he said.

“Once they’ve started building West Edge, they’ll find a way to justify demolishing Gadsden Green. The Housing authority promised they’d never demolish Ansonborough Homes, but eventually they came up with a story about the soil being contaminated and tore it down,” Lewis related. “It’s cruel to say take a wrecking ball to the projects because you’re talking about people’s home and lives. But there’s no question in my mind, in a few years those people will be displaced.”

William Dudley Gregorie, the Dist. 6 representative on city council was less pointed, but shares Lewis’ assessment. The issue is complicated, he said. Everyone understands the need for low-income, affordable housing, but complexes like Gadsden Green have outlived their purposes. Upgrades are a no-brainer, but everyone also knows that upgraded housing usually doesn’t put the old residents back into the new housing.

Rather than holding on to nostalgia and the cycle of poverty the complex represents, Gadsden Green residents would do better to look for better housing and home ownership opportunities, Gregorie said.

Public housing never was meant to be the permanent solution to housing needs for the poor it has become, he said. Rather than looking at Gadsden Green as a home for current residents and their children after them, families should be moving toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The West Edge redevelopment shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity for displacement, but as an opportunity to prepare to participate in that future, he said.

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