The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


Individual Articles

Shrimp 'n Grits

Urban Redevelopment - A Blueprint for Gentrification
Lee Walton

The proposed urban redevelopment of the Upper Peninsula and Charleston Neck, spearheaded by J. Pericles Riley and his notorious "Real-Estate Development Complex", now threatens Charleston's most vulnerable inner-city poor and low-income minorities. The implications of this top-down, profit-motivated redevelopment are severe! The disruption of established political, cultural and social infrastructure, increasing property taxes and loss of affordable housing are all now further exacerbated by low service sector wages that have not kept pace with the increased costs of childcare, housing, transportation and basic necessities of a working family. Who are Pericles and his lap-dog council elected to serve, his wealthy deal-estate developers or the hard working citizens of Charleston?

For Pericles and his stable of thoroughbred deal-estate developers, maximized profits and an increased municipal tax base are the primary motivators for their massive redevelopment efforts now proposed for the Upper Peninsula and Neck. To justify and bring credibility to their visions, they typically seek out nationally prominent experts to validate their intensions and neutralize local opposition. Such was recently the case when a major player in the proposed Neck redevelopment invited Brookings Institute executive Bruce Katz to speak before a select group of local planners, journalists, and prominent members of Charleston's Real-Estate Development Complex. Typically, the Palter & Chatter's self-serving editors were guilty of cherry picking through this renowned author's comments in order to validate their own biases and desired outcomes as clearly evident in their editorial of June 14th.

Without question, Bruce Katz is one of the nations foremost experts in urban and metropolitan policy; as the author of many excellent articles and books on the impacts of regionalism, sprawl and smart growth, his knowledge and understanding of these complex social issues and the central role of race in shaping metropolitan growth patterns are profound. A more provocative perspective of his thoughts on city reform can be found in his July 2002 article, Smart Growth: The Future of the American Metropolis?, where he offers the following comments prophetically descriptive of Pericles' Charleston:

Instead of streamlining city government and creating a climate for business investment, most cities have pursued a fairly narrow vision of urban policy. They have spent most of the past decade building the Consumer City, focusing on downtown revitalization, stadium building, and convention center expansions and hotel development. While these strategies have generated sales tax revenues and helped change the image of the city, they have not generated the kind of high wage job base that is critical to long-term economic viability.

And therein lies the root of Charleston's paradox! Top-down, profit motivated urban redevelopment, in a city dependent upon a low-wage hospitality and service based economy, does nothing to change the deal-estate development paradigm. To change this outcome, one must first change the forces guiding urban redevelopment policy. The motivating force must be the creation of higher wage jobs for the resident population, not the maximization of personal profits for the same select deal-estate developers who always seem to be at the head of the line feeding at the public tax dollar hog-trough.

Additional low-wage service sector jobs created by more high-income housing developments, retail commercial development and tourist attractions will only increase urban poverty, reliance upon low-income housing subsidies and out-migration of the urban minority population. Ongoing top-down, deal-estate redevelopment within the Peninsula has already exploited several minority working-class neighborhoods on the East Side and between the Cross-town and Calhoun Street. Although working family incomes in these neighborhoods are above the poverty level, they are still substantially below the median income levels of the Tri-county Area.

Charleston must reevaluate its deal-estate development paradigm based upon tourism and high-income housing enclaves for the "recently arrived" wealthy that do nothing but create increased low-wage service sector job dependency. The ongoing inner-city deal-estate redevelopment objectives of Pericles and his cronies do nothing for the poor and low-income work force; they simply become an unintended blueprint for servitude.

As the State now begins to aggressively shift regressive local property and sales tax burdens upon poor and lower income minority families, new and uncharted waters of unanticipated consequences will create a perilous voyage for many of our least able and most vulnerable urban residents.

It's time for a change in the vision! It's time for a change in the deal-estate development paradigm! IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE!

Your Comments:
Post a Comment:
Your Info:
Remember personal info?