Last week, the Charleston Regional Business Journal featured an article about a local nonprofit's efforts to improve and rebuild the Chicora-Cherokee area of Charleston, SC. As companies and residents have begun to come into lower income or delapidated neighborhoods in Charleston, many people have expressed concern for the current residents of those neighborhoods. As we all know, neighborhoods go through cycles. They start out new and usually decline in value, often gaining an increase in crime, until eventually, residents or outsiders come in to clean things up and make it a once again desireable area. Everyone gets excited about the area as it is made new again, but others worry that the individuals who have made those areas their home will be pushed out as value rises, making them unable to afford to live in the area any longer. This is where the Reverend Bill Stanfield comes in.
Chicora-Cherokee, a roughly 4-square-mile area of the city, is home to about 3,500 residents. It was once a hotbed for crime, where more violent crimes were committed than in any other neighborhood in the city. But those numbers are on the decline.
Stanfield and his nonprofit Metanoia Community Development Corp. have been working for more than a decade to rebuild Chicora-Cherokee from within. Stanfield "We are thinking more and more about the economic development of the community," says Stanfield. "We want to manage that process of redevlopment so that we can prevent mass gentrification." In other words, these efforts are mainly to benefit the residents of Chicora-Cherokee, inviting businesses in and encouraging homeownership.
Before the Navy base was closed, the area was bustling with commercial and residential activity. Currently, it is home to several delapidated, abandoned commercial buildings. Residents don't even have access to a grocery store in their neighborhood. This is something Stanfield and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey are looking to change. The decrease in crime and the beginnings of increase in community involvement is sure to attract businesses to the area. In fact, one of the purposes of the nonprofit Metanoia is to purchase land with delapidated buildings and turn them into affordable houses or commercial space. The city of North Charleston plans to invest in the area as well by recruiting businesses including a grocery store. An Intermodal Rail Facility has also been planned for the area, which will also bring more employment and businesses.
"In America, who decides what happens in a community is whoever owns the land there," says Stanfield. "We want development to benefit the community here." Kudos to Reverend Stanfield for looking from within to rebuild the community and doing what is best for its residents.