By Barney Blakeney
Last month, Metanoia CDC announced a partnership with the Lecque family of the Liberty Hill community in North Charleston that will help to reshape it.
Metanoia is working with The Lecque family and Golden Dream LLC to develop an eight-unit townhouse complex. The Lecques have agreed to a 50-year lease where the family will maintain ownership of their historic land and Metanoia will construct the townhouse complex. A groundbreaking ceremony was held November 29 to announce the partnership and to begin the project. The new Golden Dream apartments will contain a range of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments which will all be affordable for low-to-moderate income families.
The historic Liberty Hill Community in North Charleston was settled by four Freedmen during Reconstruction. One of those families, the Lecque family, still maintains ownership of property in Liberty Hill. James Lecque, managing member of Golden Dream, LLC said the new venture is a continuation of his great-grandfather William Lecque’s and three others’ dream of providing homes for Black families. Lecque, his brother Planty Lecque, Ishmael Grant and Aaron Middleton in 1861 purchased 112 acres, subdivided them and sold lots to newly freed Blacks to form the community they called Liberty Hill.
For the past 168 years, the community has been one of the area’s most stable communities. But as North Charleston redevelops and gentrification threatens, Liberty Hill faces challenges as do many traditional Black settlement communities. Lecque, whose family emerged as a business leader there, said his family has sought to continue the tradition of independence and entrepreneurship.
Changing economic and social dynamics created a new socio-economic reality. One that disenfranchises and dislocates Black communities. Lecque said his family realizes that what they lack in monetary wealth, they have in land wealth. They want to use that wealth in positives ways that benefit their community. A year ago one parcel was sold to bring a discount store to the neighborhood. And though efforts to transform the Montague Avenue traffic artery into a more community friendly streetscape failed, they hope to use privately owned properties to assert influence, Lecque said.
High percentages of heirs and rental properties make determining land use more difficult, but the community is working to establish collective consensus. A September community reunion brought some 500 residents and former residents together to share in their pride. The celebration was highlighted by three days of activities that included a religious program, community dinner and informal picnic. A room at the nearby newly renovated Amtrak Train Station designated as the area’s intermodal transportation hub has been dedicated to present Liberty Hill’s history.
All that activity means Liberty Hill will slowly redevelop itself, Lecque believes. He’s convinced the community’s three churches – Royal Missionary Baptist and Charity Missionary Baptist, two of the area’s largest Black congregations, and St. Peters AME Church, North Charleston’s oldest church – will help anchor that redevelopment. Lecque says he’s encouraged and sees a bright future for one of North Charleston’s oldest communities.