by Chris Haire
The fight over proposed rail lines in North Chuck is just starting to heat up and already it's become evident that the powers-that-be in Columbia are clueless about the true effects of their proposal, effects that will bring about the destruction of Park Circle.
According to the Commerce Department's plan, the primary rail line will go up Virginia Avenue — near Madra Rua and the Mill — and cross over North Rhett at the BP and Kwik Stop, cutting Park Circle off from I-526 traffic, not to mention residents of Hanahan and Goose Creek and the 10,000+ workers at the Naval Weapons Station. The line will likely be in near-constant use, dramatically changing Park Circle if North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey can't defeat them in court.
According to Process Story, which is run by Wesley Donehue, a SCGOP staffer, GOP pundit, and a political operative, it seems as if the spin coming out of Columbia — the spin that will used to paint Mayor Summey as a blustery blowhard who doesn't give a rat's ass about fair competition and the business interests of the state — is based on erroneous information about the Park Circle area.
Here's what Donehue has to say:
Back in South Carolina, there is another dispute, but this one involves a rail line to the old Navy base in North Charleston. The original fight went on two levels — between the two companies, CSX and Norfolk Southern, and whether to choose the track that would go by an environmentally-sensitive area or a low-income housing area that was undergoing redevelopment.
The city and the S.C. Ports Authority made an agreement to not put a rail through the north end of the base, which would take it by the housing area. The state Commerce Department was not a party to the agreement, and is going forward with that plan. Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor said that the plan has already passed two review boards and isn’t subject to the agreement. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said he would fight the plan.
According to the deal, both CSX and Norfolk Southern would have competitive access to the line.
Wait. Let me get this straight. Park Circle is a low-income area. Really?
Funny. Not too long ago, Men's Journal called Park Circle "one of the coolest neighborhoods" in the nation.
And while that may be a surprise to the good ole boys in Columbia, it's something that's well known to the people of the Lowcountry. After all, Park Circle is home to several of Charleston’s top mid-level restaurants: Sesame Burgers and Beer, EVO Pizzeria, Cork Bistro, and Madra Rua Irish Pub. The area also features two day spas, two LGBT clubs, a restaurant owned by the Mayor Summey’s wife, an independent movie theater, the HQ of Half-Moon Outfitters, a billion dollar company called Intertech.
Here’s what Men’s Journal said:
“Left-leaning Park Circle in the north has long flown under the radar in the state, and, while development tends to change a place, its recent housing boom has left its liberalism intact.
“Sure, there are lots of new residents, but they seem to have the same unique, character-driven, fun-loving attitudes as the pioneers.”
Make no mistake, folks. If the state's plan goes through, Charleston’s beloved boho-working class burg will be destroyed, businesses will go belly up, and houses will be sold.
Stayed tuned to the City Paper for more coverage. City Paper News Editor Greg Hambrick spoke with Mayor Summey yesterday, and he's hard at work on a feature story on the rail fight.
Updated: Process Story's Wesley Donehue responds to this post. Here's an excerpt:
When I left the Charleston area, Park Circle was starting a comeback, which is why I said it was in “redevelopment.” Heck, that’s been 13 years (WOW! Where did the time go?) and it seems that the redevelopment has really happened. I’m told there are now restaurants, bars, spas, and even a theater. One of the restaurants is actually owned by Mayor Summey’s wife, which could be the reason he’s been so hard against benefiting the entire Charleston area and state as a whole with the new railroad.
All to say, I send out my sincerest apologies to Park Circle residents for calling their chill spot “low-income.”
Here's the plan: