By Barney Blakeney
Though he’s only lived in the building a few years, Michael Waldron has gained a keen sense of the characteristics shaping the controversy about residency at Joseph Floyd Manor Apartments – systemic neglect, finger pointing, grandstanding and apathy. Ultimately it all will end up displacing current residents, he believes.
Joseph Floyd Manor, operated by Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, is Charleston County government’s only rental apartment complex exclusively serving senior citizens and the disabled. Residents for years have complained that the building was poorly maintained and issues of pest infestations and illegal activities prevailed. In recent weeks several elected officials have taken up their cause.
Waldron about a month ago became the complex’s tenant association’s president – a job he took he says, because nobody else wanted it. That’s been an overarching characteristic of the building, he says. “I don’t think there’s any real commitment to maintaining the place,” Waldron said.
Originally known as the Darlington Apartments, which incorporated commercial spaces and 156 apartments, in 1981, the authority reopened the building as apartments for the elderly. The first floor included a mix of uses; the second floor was for handicapped residents; and the upper floors were for the elderly. But in the past two decades the building has had the dubious distinction of serving as a haven for various and nefarious activities – illegal drug activity, rat and bug infestations among them. Waldron says that however, has not been the major contributor to the building’s demise.
Though a recent cadre of elected officials have converged on the building espousing intent to revitalize it to accomplish its originally stated mission, Waldron said the decades-long inconsistency in management and underfunding of maintenance point to the obvious – in the rapidly changing upper peninsula, surrounded by redevelopment the building may be renovated or razed and reconstructed, but it will not continue to serve its current constituency.
The most recent cadre of officials to engage the residents are jibber-jabbering the same rhetoric as those who came before them, Waldron said, “But this isn’t about roaches or bed bugs, it’s about the system. They’re either going to gut it to the frame and rebuild, or they’ll demolish it and build something new. But talk about relocating the residents and then returning them is rhetoric. They’re playing with people’s lives. They’re playing with us. We need to make other plans. You can see that just by looking around us.”
Former authority board of directors chair George Dawson said Joseph Floyd Manor residents are municipal, county and state constituents who have been neglected by each level of government. The building, one of the tallest in the area, sticks out like a sore thumb at a gateway to the peninsula. The building and property are among the most desirable on the Upper Peninsula. Because of its appeal to developers, “I don’t know where those people will end up,” Dawson said.