by Paul Bowers
The Eastside Community Development Corporation will hold a public meeting Sunday to discuss residents' concerns about real estate development at the borders of the Eastside community. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at Mall Square, at the intersection of America and Columbus streets.
Former Charleston City Council member Kwadjo Campbell will make a presentation about the pending developments — which include a Holiday Inn and luxury apartments on Meeting Street — and then open the floor for neighbors' comments. Campbell, a sometime City Paper columnist, is doing pro-bono consulting work for the ECDC.
Campbell says new development could bring increased traffic, noise pollution, and property taxes to the neighborhood. He says that as property values increase, some senior citizens living on a fixed income could be forced out, and property speculation could lead to a wave of gentrification in the historically black neighborhood.
"It's not an argument that we're against progress," he says. "We're asking for voluntary participation, and we're trying to do this as non-adversarial as possible." Campbell says he has sent letters to the developers of four upcoming construction projects requesting that they participate in a charrette where residents can voice their concerns. Local government and business leaders recently participated in a series of charrettes regarding the future of the Neck, the area that links peninsular Charleston to North Charleston.
Campbell is also asking developers to make a donation to the Lowcountry Housing Trust Fund, which helps finance affordable housing. He says people who don't live in the Eastside sometimes have a flawed view of the neighborhood. "What they're missing out on is strong families," he says. "Yeah, they're a low-income community, and it has some of the problems associated with poverty, but we've got a strong, strong social capital. That stems from family ties, and that stems from the religious community."