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Latest News in North Charleston, SC
Editorial: North Charleston should rise to the challenge on old Naval Base
THE EDITORIAL STAFFhttps://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-north-charleston-should-rise-to-the-challenge-on-old-naval-base/article_af9f369a-3395-11ed-80ca-93fd6cc34f3e.html
The city of North Charleston has a long and convoluted history grappling with the vast property that the Navy left behind when it closed its base and shipyard along the Cooper River a generation ago. But the city has an opportunity to write a promising new chapter soon, as it prepares to oversee development of new infill housing just west of the base’s historic officers’ quarters.This city project, which has been in the planning stages for years, is expected to see movement soon, as the many puzzle pieces of redeveloping t...
The city of North Charleston has a long and convoluted history grappling with the vast property that the Navy left behind when it closed its base and shipyard along the Cooper River a generation ago. But the city has an opportunity to write a promising new chapter soon, as it prepares to oversee development of new infill housing just west of the base’s historic officers’ quarters.
This city project, which has been in the planning stages for years, is expected to see movement soon, as the many puzzle pieces of redeveloping the former base finally fall into place.
The Navy left a vast amount of property. The southern end now is occupied by the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal and federal offices, a series of piers and drydocks along the river that are home to assorted industrial uses, and a large swath just to the west being developed as an intermodal railyard to handle containers coming from and going to the Leatherman terminal.
But the jewel of the base always has been its northern end, particularly the officers’ quarters nestled amid a series of rolling hills shaded by dozens of mature, moss-draped trees. This unusually bucolic enclave is a reminder that Charleston had hired the Olmstead Brothers in the 19th century to make the area, once Retreat Plantation, into a vast new park, not unlike what the landscape firm’s namesake had helped do with New York’s Central Park a few decades before. It is here, amid a series of architecturally and historically significant buildings, that North Charleston plans a site for new housing.
We agree that some additional new homes would be an appropriate fit here. We also agree with the city’s vision of having these homes — and the residential portion of the district — gradually feather into the grander historic homes closer to Riverfront Park that have been (or eventually will be) renovated for more commercial, hospitality uses such as restaurants, event spaces and small lodging.
Ensuring that new housing is designed and built in a way that complements the officers’ quarters will be key. The city is on the right track with its infill goal — the officers’ quarters could benefit from additional housing, provided the density, height, quality of materials and design are right. The city should work with the broader community to make sure they are.
North Charleston currently has no architectural review board but plans to create one as part of this project. We not only urge city leaders to follow through on that, but we also urge the public to participate when the time comes.
Doing so might add cost and time, but it could make the difference between a successful project and something less. And it’s not just a question of ensuring suitable architectural design. The new housing should keep the open, park-like setting, so any type of fencing should be a no-go.
The Charleston Naval Yard Hospital Quarters Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, runs west to Hobson Street. Most of the infill is expected in the area just west of that, along Manley Avenue. The city already has razed a handful of 1970s housing structures there to clear the site. The vision, though, would add more homes in the district itself. Again, arriving at just the right number, height and placement will be crucial to maintaining the ambiance.
Charleston’s preservation community has been involved in the base, particularly regarding damage done recently to the hospital historic district. Some of its buildings were lost during construction of a new rail line extending north from the planned intermodal yard, and the state and preservation groups have largely agreed on how that damage should be mitigated.
Building infill on the base’s historic officers’ quarters is a separate issue from that mitigation, but these groups’ experience in advocating for suitable, contextual development in historic Charleston can help North Charleston get its plan right.
“We urge the city of North Charleston to see the proximity of this new housing to an important National Register district as something that adds value to the plan,” Preservation Society Director Brian Turner tells us, “and we hope this is an opportunity to increase public knowledge and awareness of the significance of the landscape.”
Indeed, an ideal project here should not only add new homes and value to North Charleston’s tax base, but also help residents and visitors grow in their appreciation for the landscape and its significant history first as a plantation, then as a short-lived city park and finally as a place where some of the highest-ranking members of the Navy lived during their time in our community.
We don’t have all the answers on how to make that happen, but we are confident that the more the city engages the public — and incorporates that feedback — the better the outcome will be.
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CCSD using community meetings to gather feedback, set future goals
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County School District (CCSD) is holding community engagement meetings to get feedback from parents and leaders to draft goals for the future.Parents and board members are using the time to ask each other what is needed to prepare students in the county. CCSD Board Trustees are also working to set goals for the future.“The time we have is the time we’re going to use, and so we’ve been all in,” says Board Trustee Courtney Waters.Board members are...
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County School District (CCSD) is holding community engagement meetings to get feedback from parents and leaders to draft goals for the future.
Parents and board members are using the time to ask each other what is needed to prepare students in the county. CCSD Board Trustees are also working to set goals for the future.
“The time we have is the time we’re going to use, and so we’ve been all in,” says Board Trustee Courtney Waters.
Board members are encouraged the meetings will help provide a vision, but some parents say they want more action.
“It’s the same old thing,” says Frank Beylotte, a CCSD parent. “I’ve seen it a million times. I look forward to being proven wrong.”
CCSD Board Trustees plan to hold a series of meetings with the community over the next two weeks to ask how the district can better educate kids across the county. Parents will also have the opportunity to provide some feedback.
“We’re in the midst of setting goals for the district, and we can’t set goals for the district if we haven’t heard from the community,” says Waters.
The purpose is to set goals for the district once feedback and information from the community are compiled. Waters says the district hasn’t heard from the community on the issues since before the pandemic.
“People are generally concerned about the same things,” says Waters. “You know, it was interesting to hear the thing about the financial literacy piece because when we did these with the children that came up as something that they cared about too.”
Some of the questions the board is asking the community include; how should CCSD graduates be described? What should be improved, and what should be addressed first? The meetings are taking place at schools across the county, allowing board members and parents the chance to develop a plan face to face.
“We are making sure to cover as much ground as possible in addition to having the survey out there,” says Waters. “I think that the survey responses being at 400 says that people are really eager to give their feedback.”
Waters says she’s hopeful the community meetings will provide direction for the district. Beylotte says he wants to see more results following the engagement series.
“This should just be a natural integration into their activities, and maybe it will be in the future but I don’t feel confident tonight,” says Beylotte.
Meetings will take place over the next two weeks around the district. The district has a survey online for those who can’t attend in person.
Change in SC law allows nonprofit to provide more kids with free glasses, eyecare
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WIS) - So many people know the feeling of sliding on your first pair of glasses and finally being able to see a lot more clearly.A new law is designed to bring that special moment to more children across South Carolina.The legislation allows mobile optometry clinics to visit Title 1 schools, offering free screenings and eye exams and fitting and providing students with glasses, with parental consen...
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WIS) - So many people know the feeling of sliding on your first pair of glasses and finally being able to see a lot more clearly.
A new law is designed to bring that special moment to more children across South Carolina.
The legislation allows mobile optometry clinics to visit Title 1 schools, offering free screenings and eye exams and fitting and providing students with glasses, with parental consent.
“This will see that our children across the state — and I hope this spreads like wildfire — that they all are able to reach their full potential,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.
McMaster officially signed the new law earlier this year, but he commemorated it Wednesday at North Charleston Elementary School, where he was joined by other elected officials, Charleston County School District leaders and students, and representatives from the national nonprofit Vision to Learn.
The organization lobbied South Carolina’s legislature for the change in law, as its previous language had prohibited Vision to Learn from operating free mobile optometry clinics in South Carolina as it does in other states.
The General Assembly allowed Vision to Learn to operate on a trial basis over the last year before approving the permanent change in law. In that year, the nonprofit reports it provided more than 2,000 students from 17 schools in the Charleston County School District with eye exams, and 1,700 of those kids received free eyeglasses.
“Our program has found that the best way to solve this problem is by bringing access to students right here on campus,” Vision to Learn National Director Damian Carroll said.
CCSD Director of Nursing Ellen Nitz said the new law removes barriers that may be keeping kids from reaching their full potential in the classroom.
“Many of our families will face either financial burdens, transportation issues, parents having to leave work to get to appointments, and then just not even realizing that you need glasses,” Nitz said.
During Wednesday’s event, four CCSD elementary school students received their first pair of glasses, including second grader Taila Sanders, who had selected frames in her favorite color, pink.
“Everything is like so different. It’s like not blurry anymore,” Sanders said.
With the change in law now in effect, Vision to Learn said its next goal is to bring this clinic to more districts across the state and help more South Carolina kids see.
“Our young students experienced unprecedented hardships during the recent pandemic, and now going forward, having access to quality eyecare and prescription glasses will not be one more thing that they or their parents have to worry about,” Rep. William Cogswell, R – Charleston, said.
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Copyright 2022 WIS. All rights reserved.
Have ideas on how to help South Carolina’s children? Committee wants to hear them.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - If you have an idea on how to make South Carolina better for its children or concerns about issues affecting them, your opinion is wanted.The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children is traveling around the state for its annual fall tour, starting next week, and is inviting South Carolinians to speak with them.The panel, more commonly known as the Children’s Committee, is made up of a bipartisan group of six lawmakers — three from the state’s House of Representatives and thr...
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - If you have an idea on how to make South Carolina better for its children or concerns about issues affecting them, your opinion is wanted.
The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children is traveling around the state for its annual fall tour, starting next week, and is inviting South Carolinians to speak with them.
The panel, more commonly known as the Children’s Committee, is made up of a bipartisan group of six lawmakers — three from the state’s House of Representatives and three from the Senate — along with three citizens appointed by the governor and the heads of statewide agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, and Department of Education.
The feedback they have received during these hearings in past years had led to new laws at the State House.
“If whatever you’re talking about has merit, you have the opportunity to change legislation in South Carolina,” Sen. Katrina Shealy, R – Lexington and a committee member, said.
In recent years, the committee’s work has resulted in legislation to improve South Carolina’s adoption and fostering processes, put more regulations around vaping and offer paid family leave to state employees.
“What the committee’s charged with is to really address issues that affect children in the state of South Carolina,” Rep. Beth Bernstein, D – Richland, and a committee member, said. “It’s an opportunity for you to express concerns that you may have that are really relevant to what this committee’s charged with doing, and it might be an issue that we’re not even aware of.”
While most of the committee’s meetings during the year take place on State House grounds in Columbia, its fall hearing schedule gives members the chance to hear from more South Carolinians in other parts of the state.
The public hearings begin next Tuesday in Florence, followed by one in North Charleston on Sept. 22, in Greenville on Sept. 29, and two in Columbia on Oct. 12.
Any South Carolinian can come out to share their concerns or ideas for helping the state’s kids and families.
“We take that and evaluate it, and then we look toward how we can help in those areas, and then we try to craft legislation,” Bernstein said.
“And that way, we can have people working on it on both sides of the aisle,” Shealy added.
People can sign up to speak for up to five minutes at each meeting by emailing email@example.com. They can also send written comments to that email address.
The deadline to submit written testimony is Oct. 14.
“There are children all over the state that need our help, so we need to hear what would be beneficial for every child in South Carolina,” Shealy said.
Times/locations for Children’s Committee 2022 Fall Hearings:
Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.
North Charleston neighborhood split by I-26 could be reconnected with affordable housing
NORTH CHARLESTON — One day, a 7-year-old Michael Nesbitt walked into an appliance store at the Pinehaven Shopping Center with his parents.This was in the early 1960s, an era when the civil rights movement was sweeping through the country. Cities everywhere, including Charleston and its surrounding communities, were slowly integrating public spaces.Nesbitt’s father, Johnny, had wanted to make a purchase at the store, which sold household items like washing machines, dryers and refrigerators. But he couldn’t. A ...
NORTH CHARLESTON — One day, a 7-year-old Michael Nesbitt walked into an appliance store at the Pinehaven Shopping Center with his parents.
This was in the early 1960s, an era when the civil rights movement was sweeping through the country. Cities everywhere, including Charleston and its surrounding communities, were slowly integrating public spaces.
Nesbitt’s father, Johnny, had wanted to make a purchase at the store, which sold household items like washing machines, dryers and refrigerators. But he couldn’t. A White male store worker told Johnny Nesbitt — a truck driver for 45 years who never missed a day, his son said — that he couldn’t buy the item because the father didn’t have any credit.
The Nesbitt family left the store empty-handed.
A few years later, that incident lingered in the back of the child’s mind when Nesbitt, then 9, watched construction crews clearing homes in Union Heights to make way for the incoming Interstate 26. The highway — the portion from Columbia to Charleston was completed in 1969 — was constructed during a time when “urban renewal” road projects were built throughout Black communities, causing economic and physical damage.
The interstate’s Exit 218 at Spruill Avenue split Union Heights in half. The neighborhood, founded shortly after the Civil War by freed slaves who settled on an abandoned plantation, lost businesses, homes and houses of worship. Furthermore, the project disrupted the community’s cohesiveness and vibrancy.
“I thought to myself, ‘Here they go again — White folks are taking stuff from us,’” said Nesbitt, now 64, recalling how the highway project displaced his aunt’s sweet shop and his family’s church, Francis Brown United Methodist. “We just felt like we were being infringed upon.”
Today, decades later, there is a chance at stitching Union Heights back together while also making good use of the now-vacant Exit 218 property by creating affordable housing on the site. And government officials have a chance to, in a way, right a past wrong. But the effort will have its challenges — mainly in keeping the new houses affordable in the community that has seen property values rapidly rise.
Coming up with a plan
The S.C. Department of Transportation is in the process of transferring to the city ownership of the former site of the interstate exit, now an empty stretch of land between Joppa and Irving avenues.
The ramp was removed during construction of the Port Access Road that leads to the new Leatherman Terminal. A quitclaim deed has been submitted to the Charleston County Register of Deeds office, according to DOT. The transfer of the property was an environmental commitment noted in the community mitigation plan for the port project.
The former highway ramp is now open land with overgrown vegetation. Houses on the north and south sides of the neighborhood — once divided by infrastructure — are now visible to each other. The idea is to fill the empty strip with new homes and mend the once divided neighborhood.
The North Charleston-based Coastal Community Foundation has taken the lead on drafting a preliminary plan for the site. For the past few years, the foundation has been engaged in community conversations up and down the South Carolina coast with neighborhoods to get a sense of the most important needs.
“In those conversations, one of the key areas that came up time and again was affordable housing,” CCF program officer Kaela Hammond told dozens of people during an Aug. 23 Union Heights neighborhood meeting.
Since 2017, the foundation has partnered with Boeing to work with local organizations to help implement affordable housing in North Charleston neighborhoods. To that end, the foundation partnered with F.A. Johnson II, a developer who has been dubbed CCF’s technical adviser, to survey potential properties for new homes.
“One site that kept coming up throughout all the community conversations we had was the former Exit 218,” Hammond said.
CCF’s role in all of this is to bring together community groups — such as Habitat For Humanity, the Community First Land Trust and others — to help create a vision for the site.
“Our goal is to bring those partners together with community residents to make sure that this property is developed in a way that’s respectful of the community fabric, your history here, and that’s really driven by community input,” Hammond told residents at the meeting.
“The real big question is how do we keep this in quasi-public hands?” he said. “Certainly a private developer could come in, purchase it and do something that’s not consistent (with) what goals and objectives may be communitywide.”
The city seems to be amenable to CCF’s proposal. Councilman Michael Brown called the idea a “good plan” and said the overall goal for the Exit 218 property is to see affordable housing on the site.
Making the homes affordable
The challenge remains in how these organizations can keep newly built homes at a reasonable price.
The proposal, which is not finalized, was presented during the Aug. 23 meeting to solicit community feedback before it is presented to the city for consideration. It calls for 30 houses across the 2-acre lot. Roughly $3.6 million to $4.1 million would likely need to be raised as subsidy to build the homes at affordable levels, Johnson said.
The cheapest range proposed for the houses was $154,000 to $220,000. That’s for a single-family household making $51,000 to $73,000, which is 80 percent of the Charleston area median income, Johnson said.
Many residents said the proposed price range is not based on a realistic assessment of the incomes of the people in Union Heights. Doris Ferguson said she is concerned that those who rent houses in the neighborhood wouldn’t be able to afford to buy the new homes, if they’re ever built.
“You should base it on the income of the people here if you want to give us a chance,” Ferguson said.
Other concerns, like flooding, were also raised. The neighborhood is known to see high water levels when it rains. Residents at the meeting said they have complained about flooding for years, but nothing has been done to fix the problem. New homes will only exacerbate the issue, they said.
The North Charleston-based Community First Land Trust, a local organization formed several years ago with the goal of creating affordable housing in communities, could play a role in keeping the homes affordable.
More than 200 land trusts exist nationwide, and they are designed to help low-income homeowners build equity.
Typically, the land trust first obtains the land. It then engages a contractor to build homes on the properties. People then buy the homes at reasonable prices, but the trust keeps the land so that residents are not displaced.
The Community First trust has a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Through their collaboration, Habitat has already built two homes in the neighborhood on lots owned by the trust. Two more homes are in the works.
The houses will sell for about $160,000, said Skip Mikell, who’s with the land trust and also serves as president of the Union Heights neighborhood association.
The Exit 218 project could be an effort to help fend off gentrification, something that has already touched the community that is increasingly seeing more White homeowners and new development on the fringes.
Like several other neighborhoods between Charleston and North Charleston in what is known as the Neck Area, Union Heights has seen property values skyrocket due to developmental pressure from areas both north and south of its boundaries.
Nesbitt said he, like other Union Heights homeowners, get calls almost daily from people seeking to buy and likely flip the property for large profits.
“The calls have become borderline harassment,” Nesbitt said.
Some in the neighborhood are excited about the prospect of getting the Exit 218 land returned to the community.
“I was excited about the fact that we could knit our community back,” said Henrietta Woodward. “Why should we not get that property back?”