By Barney Blakeney
In recent months, Charleston officials have been conducting informational meetings with West Ashley residents as it continues to create a master plan for redevelopment in the area where more than half the city’s population and about half its Black citizens reside. Enclaves of predominantly Black neighborhoods in the city’s greatest land area which encompasses nearly 100 sq. miles, and where the number of construction permits doubled from about 500 in 2015 to more than 1,000 in 2016, will be significantly impacted. Charleston Dist. 7 representative Perry Keith Waring encourages the residents of unincorporated areas of West Ashley to become more engaged in the process.
Traditional Black communities in the city are actively engaged, Waring said, but there has been less involvement from the residents of traditional Black communities in unincorporated areas. Those residents typically are less organized, but are more vulnerable as redevelopment changes communities in various ways.
Main thoroughfares throughout West Ashley mostly don’t have a lot of Black property owners, but property owners in the interior communities will be affected by what takes place on them, Waring said. That means zoning ordinances likely will change and development of mixed use properties will affect everything from infrastructure to tax levies.
He cited proposed redevelopment at Citadel Mall at Sam Rittenburg Boulevard and Orleans Road as a major game-changer in the master plan for redevelopment. On Tuesday the Medical University of South Carolina announced it will be locating an outpatient facility adjacent to the site. The new facility will bring some 500 jobs with it, Waring said. Other plans for redevelopment of the mall include mixed uses that include commercial, recreational and residential elements. For the residents of the traditionally Black communities of Savage Road and Orleans Woods, that means infrastructure and commercial changes which unquestionably will impact their lifestyles, he said.
Waring said leadership will be key in helping residents transition through the changes coming to West Ashley. Housing, recreation and work elements in close proximity will transform an area where some 90 percent of residents depend on automobiles to commute. Waring said younger residents of traditional Black communities where senior citizens are a significant percentage of the community will have to take on those leadership roles.
Most communities that now are residential will remain residential, Waring said, though gentrification may change some demographics. A lack of coordinated proactivity could result in unwanted changes. Residents must be informed and they need proactive leadership to do that. In today’s world, lacking information and leadership is not a position to be in, he said.