Thursday, June 16, 2016
Moving on Up to the Eastside
Last night I was reading that I am currently living in the new "Up and Coming" neighborhood. This is just another way of saying the Eastside is on the brink of being gentrified. I knew when I moved in that it was a neighborhood in transition. Quite frankly, for my personal economic purposes, I had hoped it was in no hurry to get all gussied up.
This dodgy side on Meeting Street, north of Mary, has long had a bad reputation for crime and drugs. Historically before it became an area of gangs, drugs, and crime it was known for its freedman's cottages and single homes that still stand. There are also small Victorian style houses that face the street with wide porches. Almost every corner has a small store. There are areas I do not frequent and would not feel comfortable in, but for the most part, I feel safe here. The police presence is hard to miss. One doesn't go fifteen to twenty minutes without seeing a patrol car.
There is a personality I hope the neighborhood doesn't lose but, in reality, I know it will. Whether it is the old men walking to work before daybreak singing old time spirituals in deep baritone voices or the women sitting on their porch steps, wearing some unremarkable outfit with bandannas around their head and bedroom shoes on watching their children play on the sidewalk. Even the friendly inebriated souls trying to make their way home, I run into when the pups and I are out on our predawn constitutional are part of the ambiance.
As I have mentioned before, some of the homes have been completely renovated to their original charm. And now, it is now not unusual to see a BAR notice nailed to a pole in front of one of the dilapidated ones. BAR is the Board of Architectural Review. This is the entity that has preserved Charleston by controlling what can be built, what cannot be raised but must be restored, and how it should look when finished. Any decent developer knows you just don't buy a rundown, falling in house down here, raise it and build whatever you want.
So yes, there are more professionals moving in. College students frequent the sidewalks hurrying to class. There are still the traditional African American residents who have been here since before anyone else. These are the endangered ones - the ones who will be forced out of their homes and apartments as the area gets civilized, fixed up, and rents sky rocket.
I was thinking about this as I got in my car today to return to work from lunch. The renovated iron works foundry I call home is a prime example of this change as are the two houses next door with bright pink BAR signs stapled to their fences.
Just then a young man wearing Hawaiian print boxers, a stained white tee shirt, and black dress socks (sans shoes) passed me on the sidewalk. Perhaps the change is not going as fast as I feared. I can only guess this gentleman was the looser in a game of strip poker that involved serious adult beverages. Or perhaps we have jumped the shark and this is just an example of the inebriated soul, albeit the new gentrified variety, finding his way back home.
When it is all said and done the BAR can control the color paint. type of porch, and door molding of your building as you renovate. But they have no control over the characters that may move in.